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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Jun 14 2018

Two Farm Bills, Two Visions for Our Public Lands

The House Farm Bill thankfully failed. The one in the Senate thankfully passed out of committee yesterday.

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Every five years Congress passes the Farm Bill, legislation that establishes agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30, and so Congress is now working on passing a new one.

To date, two very different farm bills have emerged, one in the House and the other in the Senate. 

The House bill was chock full of attacks on bedrock environmental laws. It included provisions that would prevent public input on forest projects and jeopardize endangered species. It prioritized logging over clean water, recreation, and wildlife. It also failed to support the wildfire-fighting funding fix that Congress made in March with the omnibus appropriations bill. Thankfully, that version of Farm Bill died on the House floor.

The Senate bill is much more palatable. Yesterday, it passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee and will now move to the floor.

The Senate Farm Bill builds on the wildfire funding that was included in the recently passed Omnibus Appropriations Act and focuses on ensuring the health and condition of our national forests. It also renews support for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, which has been instrumental in forest management and restoration in the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act landscape. Furthermore, it supports publiic input into national forest management, preserves the roadless rule, and even adds 25,000 acres of Wilderness in Tennessee and Virginia. 

Thankfully, Senator Steve Daines, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, refrained from adding amendments he had proposed that would undermine bedrock environmental laws, such as NEPA, and take citizens out of the decision-making process on our national forests. Those amendments would have poisoned the Farm Bill, and they have no place in must-pass bipartisan legislation.

We expect the bill to move to the floor for debate and possibly a vote by the July 4th recess. Stay tuned for additional updates.

- Amy Robinson, MWA interim conservation director