Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition's Top Four Priorities

By Tristan Daedalus, Policy Director, American Forest Foundation

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Over the past few months, you've no doubt read about the work being done in Congress on the 2018 Farm Bill. Whenever it comes up for renewal, the Farm Bill is a hot topic for conversation—especially among those in agriculture or conservation. The Farm Bill is generally revisited every five years, and contains the considered federal policy surrounding agriculture, conservation, forestry, and nutrition programs across the nation. The last farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, is set to expire on September 31, 2018, and the Agriculture committees in both chambers have been discussing the next bill for some months already.

In just three years, the 2014 Farm Bill helped family forest owners conduct conservation efforts across more than 10 million acres. That's 9,000 acres of family forest lands improved every day for three years! Among the American Forest Foundation's other advocacy efforts, we are proud to be one of the four organizations on the steering committee for the Forests in the Farm Bill (FIFB) Coalition, a group of organizations with the shared goal of making these programs better for the future.

Since the early 2000s, the coalition has fought to ensure that forests are included in our agriculture policy through the Farm Bill. This year, the FIFB coalition includes 103 organizations running the gamut of the forest sector; including conservation organizations such as AFF, and industry, state forest owner associations, and forestry professionals. The coalition platform includes policies agreed to by all of these organizations and serves as the basis for Farm Bill outreach on Capitol Hill and in the administration.

Here are just four of AFF's priorities, and priorities shared with the FIFB coalition platform.

First, we must maintain funding and support for forest owners in the two areas of the Farm Bill that advance our management efforts—the forestry and conservation titles. But just ensuring these programs continue to benefit forest owners is not enough. We're also seeking to improve and expand technical assistance and improve program implementation for woodland owners. Not only would continued enrollment in these programs benefit landowners, but it combats threats to woodlands across our nation that the FIFB coalition has identified—development pressures, wildfires, insect, diseases, and several others.

Second, we want the 2018 Farm Bill to fix some of the problems faced by good woodland stewards whose successful and voluntary practices help manage and protect endangered species on their land. We want to ensure that these landowners receive federal support and regulatory assurance when managing for at-risk wildlife. This is key, not only for landowners to be successful, but for species recovery as well.

Third, we're strongly supporting cross-boundary, landscape-scale restoration efforts to tackle the countless forestry issues that do not respect property lines. Be it hazardous fuels removal or invasive species management, we cannot allow ownership boundaries to slow down our ability combat these threats. Encouraging willing landowners, while respecting property rights, to undertake management practices with beneficial spillover effects, protects federal lands and encourages cooperation among the myriad private, state, and local landowners.

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to advance cross-boundary management. Called the "Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2017" and introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Steve Daines (MT), is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate. Even still, the Farm Bill remains our best chance the government will adopt these policies.

And finally, we want to make sure the 2018 Farm Bill supports a strong and diverse forest products industry that helps grow markets for landowners. We've seen how successful U.S. Forest Service programs can add to the nation's continued energy revolution, such as the Forest Products Lab's valuable research on products such as cross-laminated timber, and the expansion of woody biomass markets.

Take this opportunity to get involved! Connect with your members of Congress and let them know how valuable these programs are to you. For more information on AFF or the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition, visit Forests in the Farm Bill .