This morning, the House Agriculture Committee voted (35-11) to approve its version of the Farm Bill. The bill includes the forestry-related provisions included in the draft put out late last week. The Committee did not make any changes to the Conservation Title found in the draft, but two additional amendments to the Forestry Title were approved including:
- Exempts minor non-controversial, minor activities (e.g., planting trees after wildfires, removal of dead hazard trees, approval of one-time organized events) carried out by the Forest Service from public notice, comment, and appeals. The exemption would respond to a Federal Court decision which mandated that the Forest Service provide for notice, comment and appeal for these minor activities.
- Increases acres for categorical exclusions from 1000 acres to 10000 acres to be used for pine beetle mitigation efforts in USDA-designated areas as part of the National Forest Critical Area Response.
The House Agriculture Committee approved version of the bill is now ready to be sent to the House floor. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2012, and Congress is scheduled to leave for recess for most of August. It is uncertain whether the House leadership will allow a floor vote before the current farm bill expires.