SDCGA urges Gov. Rounds to reject Sodsaver

Unfair disadvantages would plague East River counties and ag producers in South Dakota under the Sodsaver provision in the new Farm Bill. Gov. Rounds has the opportunity to stop this from happening and the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) is urging Gov. Rounds to not opt in to Sodsaver because of the unintended consequences it would create on half the state.

Sodsaver restrictions will place eastern South Dakota producers at a competitive disadvantage long term. Sodsaver affects the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of South Dakota which is East River counties only.

“Why is the native sod in the PPR a higher priority than native sod in other parts of the state and nation? Splitting the state is unfair and singles East River producers out,” said Bill Chase, president of the SDCGA. “Taking away the landowner rights of half of the state is equivocal to allowing West River businesses opportunities not allowed on the east side of the state.”

Consider these points if South Dakota is enrolled in Sodsaver:

  • South Dakota would be at a competitive disadvantage with other states that have the freedom to open new ground for production; in addition, West River land in South Dakota could be broken without consequences. East River producers’ land would be unfairly devalued;
  • Producers will be ineligible for crop insurance on newly broken sod for 5 years; however:
  • Due to lack of information and inconsistent records about what is and isn’t native sod, the burden lies on producers to prove whether land is virgin ground or has been tilled;
  • A precedent similar to the Swampbuster Act of 1986 would be set, affecting generations to come.

“Producers are original stewards of the land and we recognize the importance of preserving and protecting native sod and maintaining our natural resources. However, there are countless considerations in the Sodsaver provision which are unclear and misguided in their attempt to protect these resources,” said Chase. “We believe there are other options that could be explored which would better accomplish conservation while not taking rights away from select areas of the nation.”

As mentioned above, it is not clear what constitutes native sod. A specific list of criteria for what constitutes native sod (tall, mixed, and short grass prairie) and how it will be identified and applied is necessary before this provision could even be valid.

“This issue is far greater than whether or not South Dakota producers have the landowner’s right to incorporate an old farmstead, for example, into their tillable acres,” said Chase. “We are operating in a hungry, growing world market and feeding the world requires responsible availability of resources. The restriction could have far reaching implications on the much needed economic activity on the state and local levels in South Dakota as well. This one election will affect generations decades from now.”

While the Sodsaver provision claims to be for the term of this farm bill, once South Dakota is enrolled, the SDCGA warns precedence would be set similar to the Swampbuster Act of 1986, and the likelihood of reconsideration is next to nonexistent. That’s a sentence extended to future generations of South Dakota producers.

“Far too many questions and clarifications exist in this Sodsaver provision for it to be conscionable to participate,” said Chase. “It’s imperative to the long term viability of this state for Gov. Rounds to not opt into the damaging Sodsaver provision.”

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