HOUSE PASSES FARM BILL….FINALLY
Forest Roads Provision included
On July 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new farm bill (HR-262) by a margin of 216-208, and for the first time in a year will allow House-Senate talks on a final farm package.
The forestry community commended the House for including provisions preserving forest roads as nonpoint sources under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and otherwise promoting working forests. Early in June, the House adopted by voice vote the Forest Roads provision. The forest roads amendment mirrors the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (H.R. 2026) championed by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA3) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR5). The legislation preserves EPA’s 37-year-old policy that forestry activities and forest roads are nonpoint sources under the CWA. The House bill also includes a provision ensuring that traditional forest products qualify for the federal procurement preference and product label under United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) biobased program.
The so called “farm only” version of the farm bill passed by the U.S. House proposes a big shift in farm bill policy, as it would eliminate the Nutrition Title of the new farm bill, which funds food and nutrition (SNAP) programs.
The U.S. Senate passed their version of the new farm bill in mid-June by a wide margin, with very strong bi-partisan support.
Tax Reform Back on Senate Radar
For the remainder of the summer and into the fall, the Senate will be engaged in a major effort to provide input to the Senate Finance Committee on which tax expenditures (including timber tax provisions) should be included in the tax code as part of their effort to “start from scratch” approach to far-reaching tax reform.
In both the House and Senate, FLA and the forestry community have had meetings and sent letters laying the foundation making a strong case why timber tax provisions should be maintained in any tax reform legislation.
Despite the earnest promise of diligence by congressional leaders, the prospects for tax reform continue to be slim as President Obama continues to insist on another huge tax increase after the one he imposed in January.