Timber a focus in new farm law
The farm bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on December 20 includes several new forestry programs.
The farm bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on December 20 includes several new forestry programs. But the biggest impact on landowners is the extension of key programs that support conservation and improvement activities on private and public land until 2023. These programs, like EQIP and NCRS, support funding of projects throughout the U.S., and were set to expire in 2018.
The new innovation programs offer government support for several emerging areas in the forest products industry for research and development. There were innovation grant programs authorized to dispense a total of $125 million over five years ($25 million per year) to:
- Advance innovative wood building product technologies
- Spur the use of new wood products in tall buildings (height of 85 feet or greater)
- Creation of wood energy systems in communities with higher unemployment rates than the national average
- Reactivation of existing mills in communities with the installation of innovative systems
The Good Neighbor Authority was expanded in the current farm law. The program was created in 2014 to allow states to contract to carry out forest improvement projects on federal land. It was expanded in the current farm bill (in a measure whose co-sponsors included Wisconsin Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin) to allow counties and Native American tribes to also carry out these projects. The goal of the Good Neighbor Authority is to improve forest management and make more forest service timberland available.
The farm bill also authorized the U.S. Forest Service to lease out unused forest service administrative facilities like offices, warehouses, garages, lookout stations or telecommunications facilities for 10 years. Leases must be based on an appraisal, and counties and municipalities have a right of first refusal on any leases made available to others.
The law also encourages the USFS to “find efficiencies in inventory collection and analysis through the use of advanced remote sensing technologies” to gather inventory information.
The law doesn’t specifically define “advanced remote sensing technologies”.