PennFuture Blog

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Protect Your Forests: 2018 Farm Bill Update

Sustainable agriculture, forestry, and clean water take center stage this week as the Farm Bill debates begin in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. 

The Farm Bill is the largest federal source of conservation funding on private and public land. Over the past half-century, the Farm Bill has done much to support landowners and farmers in Pennsylvania who want to improve water quality and conserve wildlife habitat on their lands. The current Farm Bill’s (Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2014) authorization expires at the end of September, and the legislation currently under consideration would provide funding through 2023.

The House is poised to push through and vote on the House version of the Farm Bill later this week. In what is typically a bipartisan effort to craft legislation to help our farmers, low-income communities, and conservation work every four years, this bill is ideological and harmful. It is problematic due to its cuts in protections and funding for the environment and conservation along with draconian work requirements for recipients of the SNAP program.

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) is replete with attacks on bedrock environmental laws and America’s national forests. The House Farm Bill includes numerous categorical exemptions from public input and environmental review on forestry projects and incentivizes logging over clean water, recreation, and wildlife. Further, H.R. 2 undermines the National Environmental Policy Act.

The bill goes back on a long-sought-after and hard-won bipartisan fire funding compromise signed into law only a few months ago as a part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act. This partisan, one-sided farm bill goes on to attack the Roadless Area Conservation Rule by creating a loophole that allows logging and costly road-building in protected and precious roadless forest areas, such as parts of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest in the northwest. 

H.R. 2 also attacks the Endangered Species Act by removing a requirement for expert consultation regarding endangered species and critical habitat. We need the Forest Service to consider how water, soil, and wildlife are affected by large-scale projects – not cut back on protections and reviews to favor the industry. We must keep public lands in public hands. All Americans deserve a say in how these lands are managed, not just those out to make a buck.

As it stands, the House bill’s conservation title is a solid start, but it could be stronger. We are pleased with the five million acre increase in the conservation reserve program, the increase in funding for the easement program and the continuation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. However, the bill cuts nearly $800 million from the conservation title over a ten-year period—this funding needs to be restored.

Please ask your Member of Congress and Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey to oppose the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2) federal forestry provisions and to speak out publicly against the egregious attacks on American’s wild national forests. We ask that our Representatives and Senators work towards a bipartisan bill with strong forestry and conservation titles that are free from provisions that will put in jeopardy our lands, water, and wildlife. 

Stay tuned for more on the Farm Bill as we track it closely and will provide updates often over the coming months.

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