State foresters know that farm bills, and particularly their Forestry Titles, are unique opportunities to support rural America’s economic backbone and improve quality of life for all Americans.
Roughly every five years, Congress passes an omnibus legislative package known as the “Farm Bill” that covers national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. Hearings for the bill began in November 2022 and will continue through early 2023. NASF submitted its recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill to Congress in March 2023.
Working Across Boundaries
Good forest management should be cost-effective and time efficient. Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) helps state forestry agencies do that by working across jurisdictional boundaries. In the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress can improve cross-boundary work by allowing counties and Federally Recognized Tribes to retain and reinvest GNA project revenues and remove the requirement that GNA project revenues must be spent on federal lands. Congress should also invest in federal, state, private and tribal nurseries and seed orchards to improve reforestation efforts.
Enhancing Landowner Support
Over 60% of forested land in the U.S. is privately owned, yet forest landowners often do not receive the support they need to keep their forests healthy. In the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress should improve post-disaster federal programming, particularly the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), to ensure forest landowners receive equal support from the federal government compared to other agriculture commodities. Congress should also allow forest landowners with stands at maturity to harvest, reforest, and remain in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to incentivize landowners to maintain their forests. NASF also seeks to encourage the growth of forestry assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by requiring state offices and technical committees to assess and establish priority forestry practices.
Making Forests Work For You
Forests are not just remote, wild lands—they’re a resource for everyone. The 2023 Farm Bill can protect more forests and serve more Americans by covering non-rural communities under projects that reduce wildfire risk such as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act and the Landscape Scale Restoration program. Even Americans that don’t live near forests benefit from forest management. Forests naturally filter water and make it safer for drinking which is why NASF recommends that conservation program funding directed toward water protection should prioritize surface water and forested water sources.
Protecting and Enhancing State, Private and Tribal Forests
Forests face a variety of threats from severe wildfire to land development. NASF acknowledges the importance of local planning decisions in protecting and managing forests and recommends that Congress implement programmatic recognition of state and local jurisdictions. As more than half of American forests are privately owned, NASF also supports program enhancements that empower private landowners to protect forests. In the 2023 Farm Bill, Congress should improve the Conservation Stewardship Program by allowing forest landowners to choose from a variety of conservation enhancements such as optimized carbon uptake, additional tree planting, improved water quality, and more.
To read NASF’s full 2023 Farm Bill platform, click here.