BELLEFONTE – On Feb. 7, President Barack Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, the five-year Farm Bill reauthorization that passed Congress with bipartisan support and reduces annual budget deficits by $16.6 billion over 10 years.
Industry professionals including farmers, foresters, conservationists, researchers, and policy advocates have praised the law as a historic improvement to federal agriculture policy that will support key areas of economic activity in Pennsylvania and across the country.
· Susan Benedict, American Tree Farm System certified forest owner, State College: “As a Pennsylvania Tree Farmer, I can happily say this Farm Bill was well worth the wait. With the promotion of new market opportunities in the Bio-based Markets Program and green building markets, improved access to critical conservation programs, and increased regulatory certainty when protecting water quality of my forests roads, this Farm Bill is truly the best Farm Bill yet for forests. I applaud Conference Committee members and my own Representative, Mr. Thompson, for championing strong forestry provisions, such as the Biobased Markets Program changes, for America’s 22 million family forest owners.”
· Kenneth C. Kane, president, Generations Forestry Inc., Kane: “From the outside looking in, Congress displayed a level of bipartisanship on the Farm Bill that has been lacking, which is far better than the gridlock we’ve encountered. This is a wonderful bill and a good final product from numerous standpoints. From the standpoint of the Forest Service, this bill gives Secretary Vilsak and Forest Chief Tidwell more tools to actively manage forests, which is critically important. Now that these tools are available, the Forest Service must use them. This bill also offers our foresters and private industry more tools to actively manage, so this is also very important.”
· Barbara Christ, interim dean of agricultural sciences, Penn State University: “Agricultural policy impacts every American by advancing food security for our nation and beyond, including providing for critical research and education programs. We are thrilled a new five-year Farm Bill is now a reality. As a specialty crop state, of particular interest to Pennsylvania is the inclusion of the specialty crop research initiative. These programs help keep our Pennsylvania farmers competitive in an increasing complex environment and help tackle the ongoing challenge of feeding a growing population.”
· Robert Maiden, executive director, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts: “The new federal farm bill has many strong conservation programs that are lifelines for Pennsylvania farmers. We needed Congress to understand these points and ensure that the importance of conservation efforts wasn’t lost in the final farm bill language. One major reason our message was heard and received was thanks to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, the chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry. Thompson took the time to connect with local conservation groups such as ours to garner local solutions to address the challenges being met at the federal level in regards to finalizing the farm bill…This outreach resulted in a conservation title in the farm bill that will allow for cleaner water for Pennsylvania waterways, resulting in healthier communities and stronger economies.”
· Mark R. Tercek, president and chief executive officer, The Nature Conservancy: “Despite the polarized political climate and challenging budget times, this farm bill would be one of the strongest ever for conservation and forestry…the farm bill’s conservation provisions are practical, cost-effective and provide solid ways for the government to collaborate with individual landowners…The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees are to be commended for finding this healthy way forward by working together, listening to the people on the ground about what works, and leading the way for all of Congress to vote for smart, efficient solutions…”
· Tom Martin, president and chief executive officer, American Forest Foundation: “The long-awaited Farm Bill provides resources critical to implementing conservation practices on the ground and making good forest stewardship affordable. The improvements in the new Farm Bill, critical to ensuring long-term forest sustainability, include stronger market opportunities for forests, specifically with improvements to the Bio-based Markets Program and a strengthened commitment to expanding prospects for wood in green building markets, the fastest growing market for wood products; Improved access to conservation resources, particularly the Conservation Stewardship Program, which rewards landowners for taking the ‘next step’ in conservation; Strong support for programs that combat forest invasive pests and pathogens and; Provisions to increase forest owners’ regulatory certainty when protecting water quality…”
· Dave Tenny, president and chief executive officer, National Association of Forest Owners: “This is a great outcome for the families, particularly in rural communities, who rely on 2.4 million forestry related jobs throughout the United States…We applaud Congress for inclusion of these pro-forestry provisions in the bill. Promoting healthy forests and strong markets for forest products encourages landowners to keep working forests intact, providing clean air and water, recreation and jobs for our recovering economy.”
· Jay Farrell, executive director, National Association of State Foresters: “State foresters across the country are encouraged by the inclusion of key forestry provisions in the Farm Bill Conference Report. The House-approved Conference Report includes many provisions that will help state foresters and our partners – from communities to the federal government – accomplish our shared goal of ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of the nation’s forests…It provides important tools and legal certainty that are both vitally important to improving and maintaining the health of the nation’s forests…”
U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, is the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, and served as a member of the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee.