Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Farm Bill Programs for Forestry and Conservation

2014 Farm Bill, University of Arkansas
Farm Bill programs are an important tool that forest landowners can take advantage of to secure funding assistance for numerous conservation practices.  When I worked as a Service Forester in the past it was uncommon for landowners to perform any kind of forest management practice such as tree planting, spraying competing plants, timber stand improvement, etc without being signed up in some sort of Farm Bill assistance program.  Karen Sykes from the US Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, wrote and excellent summary of the programs currently available.  I have also provided a link to the University of Arkansas site with the image to the left.  Hope this helps you better understand what programs are currently available.

2014 Farm Bill: Summary of Conservation, Forestry, and Energy Title Programs
by Karen Sykes, U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry

The Farm Bill establishes the policies and government support for U.S. agriculture, nutrition programs like food stamps, rural economic development programs, agricultural research, and much more. The bill is divided into sections, called “titles,” that cover specific program areas and generally last for about 5 years. The previous Farm Bill of 2008 had 15 titles that covered a range of forestry, food, and agricultural-related topics, including food stamps, rural development, trade, fruits, and vegetables.

As foresters, we are mainly interested in Title II–Conservation and Title VIII–Forestry, which have programs to assist nonindustrial private forest landowners. In this article, we’ll explain the major changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that pertain to forest landowners and State and Private Forestry programs. We’ll also touch on Title IX – Energy, especially regarding the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

2014 Farm Bill Finally Passes
The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) was finally enacted and signed on February 7, 2014. Under the authority of the 2008 Farm Bill, there were about 23 conservation programs. The new Farm Bill streamlines these programs, and reduces and consolidates some of the conservation programs into 13 “new” programs. Many of the larger existing conservation programs—Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)—were reauthorized, while smaller and similar programs got rolled into them, or “umbrella” programs were created to consolidate other programs.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development, and other agriculture agencies held “listening sessions” for several weeks this spring so that agriculture producers, forest landowners, and agency employees could become familiar with the changes.

Congress considered other forestry provisions that were not included in the final Farm Bill, but which could be debated later or enacted in other legislation. For example, protecting communities from wildfire and controlling invasive species are issues that were debated, but never made it to the final law. These and other issues could come up again in the future.

Title II: Conservation
To read the rest of the article click here.

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