WASHINGTON – The full House leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to the full caucus Wednesday asking for support of the Protect Our Prairies Act, H.R. 686, to help protect vital waterfowl and wildlife habitats that have never been farmed.
If passed, the Protect Our Prairies Act would conserve native grasslands by reducing crop insurance for the first four years on newly broken native sod or grasslands. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill could save taxpayers nearly $200 million over 10 years.
CSC co-chairs for the 113th Congress are Reps. Bob Latta (OH) and Bennie Thompson (MS) and vice-chairs are Tim Walz (MN) and Rob Wittman (VA). Seven CSC members, including the four chairs, are sponsors of H.R. 686.
“The Protect Our Prairies Act essentially makes crop insurance payouts proportional to the productivity of the land, saving taxpayers money and slowing the rapid loss of our native grasslands,” DU CEO Dale Hall said. “Full backing of the bill by the House Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus leadership shows just how important this issue is for the sportsmen and conservation communities.”
More than 70 percent of the nation’s native grasslands have already been lost. The rate of loss has been accelerated by unintended consequences of current agriculture policy and advanced technology.
The hunting industry supports 175,000 jobs combined in the co-sponsors’ home states. Hunters and anglers across the United States support rural communities by spending more than $76 billion a year on gear, licenses, stamps, tags and permits. Outdoor recreation opportunities contributed $145 billion to the U.S. economy in 2011, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.
Reps. Kristi Noem (SD) and Walz are the bill’s lead sponsors and co-sponsors include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR), Bruce Braley (IA), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Bob Latta (OH), Collin Peterson (MN), Bennie Thompson (MS) and Rob Wittman (VA). Rep. Peterson is the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee.
The bill was originally introduced by the bipartisan pair in the 112th Congress but it was not brought up for a vote of passage.