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Serving: West

Don't Rush To Beat Sod Saver

New program to withhold insurance coverage, disaster payment is already in effect.

A potentially controversial new conservation program that affects the Dakotas is part of the new Farm Bill.

Called "Sod Saver," the program bars you from breaking up native sod and buying federal crop insurance to cover potential losses. You also won't qualify for disaster programs on those acres. However, other farm program payments -- such as counter cyclical, direct, LDP and those tied to ACRE -- would still be available.

Up to governors
Though Sod Saver is part of the federal farm bill, it's up to the states whether or not to participate. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds says he won't decide what to do until USDA comes out with the rules, perhaps by the end of the year. No word has come from North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven office on his position on the program.

In the meantime, don't break up pastures and rangeland in an attempt to convert land before the rules are issued, warns Bill Even, South Dakota secretary of agriculture.

The law took effect when the new Farm Bill was signed in early summer. If you break up any land covered by the program anytime after the bill was signed, you'll be in violation of Sod Saver.

Tricky definitions
It's not clear yet who will be affected by Sod Saver.

The law says the program applies to the prairie pothole region, but doesn't define what that is. If USDA goes by some existing definitions it would only affect a few counties in eastern South Dakota. Much of central North Dakota would be covered, but not western or northeastern North Dakota.

The law also specifically says the insurance ban applies to native sod. By some accounts, there little 100% pure native sod left in the two states. Nearly all was plowed sometime in the last 100+ years. But some land was returned to grass, even native grass. Does that constitute native sod? Also, nearly all rangelands and pastures contain some tamegrass species, they say.

TAGS: USDA
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