Dear Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson:
The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) greatly appreciates your efforts to include robust forestry and conservation titles as part of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (HR 2642). State Foresters deliver technical and financial assistance, and forest health, water and wildfire protection for more than two-thirds of America’s forests. Our members work in close partnership with the
Forest Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service in helping sustain the nation’s forests and we have a deep interest in the outcome of any farm bill reauthorization. We understand the budget pressures presented challenges as Congress considers reauthorization of the Farm Bill. We applaud the work of the House Agriculture Committee to include needed reforms in Title II and Title VII (and other miscellaneous provisions) of HR 2642 including:
• Clarifying the authority for the USDA Forest Service to facilitate a national coordinated response to wildland fire by providing states access to resources and mobilization infrastructure (Sec. 7405);
• Extending the reauthorization of the Stewardship Contracting Authority for use on National Forest System lands (Sec. 7204);
• Providing strategic direction for the implementation of the FIA program (Sec. 7401);
• Codifying EPA's longstanding silviculture rule. Doing so protects federal, state, county, tribal, and private forest roads from costly permit requirements or other point source regulation along with litigation expenses and citizen suit liability.
• Reauthorizing $10MM to carry out the Forest Action Plans through FY18 and facilitating coordination between state forestry agencies with military installations (Sec. 7101);
• Removal of the 10% cap on the number of forestry acres that can be enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program;
• Maintaining access to assistance for forest landowners through the consolidated EQIP/WHIP program at NRCS.
• Clarifying that Clean Water Act NPDES permits are not required for FIFRA compliant pesticide applications.
We ask your support for the following provisions as you work with members of the Senate to finalize reauthorization of the Farm Bill:
• Expanding the authorization of the Good Neighbor Authority to all states with National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management Lands;
• Permanently reauthorize the Stewardship Contracting Authority for use on Forest Service;
• Removing provisions that would repeal the Watershed Forestry Assistance Program and the National Forest Product Marketing Program.
State Foresters applaud the work of the Agriculture Committee in producing a Farm Bill in the House that will help improve the health and sustainability of the nation’s forests. We look forward to working with the Committee as Congress completes its work on the Farm Bill.
West Virginia State Forester