National Issues Update from AF&PA

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Climate Hearing
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Tom Harkin (D-IA), held a hearing on July 22 examining the role of agriculture and forestry in climate change legislation. Harkin stated his desire to see a central role for agriculture and forestry in a climate bill as a strategy to earn income for producers while reducing the economic costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Committee heard from a panel of Administration witnesses, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who stated that both the agriculture and forest sectors would have to play a huge part in a climate change program. He also pointed to a recent study that indicates the House bill would have more benefits than costs to both of those sectors. Another panel featured private sector representatives, all of whom stressed that any cap and trade program must contain an agriculture and forestry offsets program such as the one in the House bill. One of those panelists was Jo Pierce, a family forest landowner from Maine, testifying on behalf of the Forest Climate Working Group. He pointed to the need to engage the private forest sector with economic incentives to capture and store carbon on their lands. Senate leadership has indicated a September 28 deadline for all relevant Senate committees to complete their pieces of a climate bill. AF&PA continues to stress, among other things, that the definition of biomass for energy and climate change legislation contain requirements for sustainable forest management. For more information, contact Nadine Block at 202.463.2753 or

Vilsack Announces Recovery Act Projects for Forest Facilities and Trails

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced on Wednesday, July 23, the release of $274 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for forest facilities and trails. Projects announced include the installation of solar panels and other facility upgrades, trail projects, and ecosystem and watershed projects in areas of high visitation. For more information on these and other projects currently funded under the ARRA, visit

Fire Funding Legislation Gets Senate Hearing

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard officials from the Interior and Agriculture Departments on Tuesday, July 21st discuss ideas on how to pay for catastrophic fire suppression costs. Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources Jay Jensen and Assistant Secretary of Interior Rhea Suh said they want a proposed fund to be tapped into only if the agencies ran out of money in their regular fire suppression funds budgets. The FLAME Act (H.R. 1404 and S. 561) would establish a fund that could be tapped any time a fire met certain requirements, including being at least 300 acres in size. The House approved H.R. 1404 this spring by an overwhelming vote, but not before amending the legislation to allow the Federal agencies to use the funds for a variety of non-fire purposes.

Kentucky State Forester and President of the National Association of State Foresters, Leah MacSwords, testifying on behalf of a coalition of supporters including AF&PA, supported the Senate version of the bill and objected to certain provisions in the House-passed version. MacSwords criticized a House amendment that would allow money from the FLAME fund to be used for hazardous fuels treatment, saying the fund should only pay for suppression.

Jensen said the Administration and lawmakers have the same goal of establishing separate funding for large, catastrophic fires. But he added, "We believe that the Administration's approach through a contingent reserve is the best budget mechanism to provide the needed funds." The Administration supports $357 million for a contingency reserve fund for next year. The fund would be tapped only if federal agencies exhaust the $1.5 billion appropriated, 10-year average, for fire suppression. Both the House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills include this contingency fund. For more information, contact Bill Imbergamo at 202.463.2479 or

Wisconsin Forests Subject of Field Hearing

The House Agriculture Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee held a field hearing on the management of Wisconsin’s forests on Monday, July 20th in Appleton, Wisconsin. AF&PA Member Bill Johnson testified before the Subcommittee, urging further improvements to the definition of renewable biomass that was adopted as part of the American Climate and Energy Security Act (HR 2454), which passed the House on June 26th. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), who represents Appleton noted that “Northeast Wisconsin has always been known for its extensive forests which have played an important role in the housing and paper industries. Now, as our country moves toward greater energy independence, the forests of Northeast Wisconsin have the potential to meet our nation’s needs for renewable energy.”

Bill Johnson told the Subcommittee that depressed lumber markets have hurt the overall economics of the wood and paper industry, noting that “the economics of our industry, which are always difficult,” and now “even more precarious. That makes it critical that policies which are intended to promote biomass utilization are carefully crafted to ensure that the existing wood and paper industries receive fair and equitable treatment.” He urged the Committee to pursue a biomass policy which includes “reasonable sustainability requirements such as a written harvest or forest management plan developed by a credentialed forestry professional, or adherence to a forest management or wood procurement certification system.” For more information, contact Bill Imbergamo at 202.463.2479 or

No comments: