On April 10, 2018 Tom Martin, President & CEO for the American Forest Foundation (AFF) Testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies regarding the current proposed Farm Bill. For private landowners, the bill makes many positive changes to the programs that assist in forest management and conservation. The draft includes dedicated funding of $3 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) by 2023, an increase from the $1.75 billion authorized today. Along with an increase in EQUIP funding, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is slated to receive $250 million, a $150 million increase from today's maximum level to be invested in further developing partnerships to improve water and land quality.
The bill improves the Healthy Forests Reserved Program (HFRP) to further landowners protecting threatened and endangered species habitat. In addition HFRP improvement, the bill codifies the Forest Service's Landscape Restoration Program and provides new cross-boundary authorities that will allow the Forest Service to work with landowners to address challenges like pest infestation and hazardous fuel removal that don't respect ownership limits. The bill expands the Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP), addressing investment in market infrastructure and encouraging the production of new wood products. Additionally, the bill includes text stating that the USDA's BioPreferred Program is to be the only standard used by the government for purposes of federal purchasing. Not only will this ensure wood from American Tree Farm System (ATFS) certified forests is allowed for federal purchasing, but will ensure that future redundant regulations don't create an unfair advantage for any of America's forest certification standards.