An email update from the Forest Resources Association….
Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee released its long-awaited Farm Bill draft titled the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The bill is 641 pages and we continue to review its many titles and provisions, but wanted to flag a few areas in which FRA has worked on and will continue to support.
Timber Innovation Act: Research provisions of the Timber Innovation Act were included in the House’s version of the Farm Bill. The legislation directs USDA to conduct performance-driven research and development, education, and technical assistance for the purpose of facilitating the use of innovative wood products (mass timber/tall wood buildings) in wood building construction in the United States.
Federal Forest Management Reform: Following up on several favorable federal forest management reforms included in the recently enacted omnibus spending bill, the House Farm Bill would create several new authorities for the Forest Service to conduct forest management projects on federal lands. Expressly, the bill authorizes a number of new “categorical exclusions” from National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA reviews that will make initiating and completing needed project work easier.
These new CEs are designed to:
§ Expedite salvage operations in response to catastrophic events
§ Meet forest plan goals for early successional forests
§ Manage “hazard trees”
§ Improve or restore National Forest System lands or reduce the risk of wildfire.
§ Forest restoration
§ Infrastructure-related forest management activities.
§ Managing insect and disease infestation.
Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP): The legislation significantly increases the authorization for this program to $25 million to fund grants for installing wood heating systems that run on sawmill residuals—sawdust that is converted to pellets and/or woodchips. In addition to funding wood heating installations, the bill would also provide grants to innovative wood products facilities—those manufacturing cross laminated timber for tall wood buildings or other cutting edge technologies using wood or lignin. This program is viewed as one policy mechanism that could be used to address the sawmill residuals issue that has become a challenge in recent months.
A markup of this legislation is scheduled for April 18 in the House Agriculture Committee.