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Forestry in the 2007 Farm Bill

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Many programs authorized in the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171) will expire at the end of FY2007, and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are likely to consider legislation to reauthorize these programs. General forestry legislation is within the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees, and past farm bills have included provisions addressing forestry, especially on private lands. Most federal forestry programs are permanently authorized, and thus do not require periodic reauthorization in the farm bill. Nonetheless, the 2002 farm bill reauthorized one office (international forestry), created a new private landowner cost-share assistance program (the Forest Land Enhancement Program) replacing two previously existing programs, and enacted a new Community Fire Protection Program.

A 2007 farm bill may also include forestry provisions addressing various issues. Funding for forestry programs may be discussed, as recent appropriations have been inconsistent and mandatory spending for the Forest Land Enhancement Program has been cancelled. Protecting communities from wildfire continues to be a priority for some interests, as the program enacted in the 2002 farm bill has not been funded directly. Controlling invasive species is another forestry issue that might be addressed in a new farm bill. Funding and programs to assist forest-dependent communities in diversifying their economies could also be debated in this context, as funding for existing programs has dwindled. Finally, some interests have expressed interest in trying to create markets for ecosystem services -- the values produced by forests that have not traditionally been sold in the marketplace.

The Administration's 2007 proposed farm bill includes a forestry title. It proposes four new programs: (1) comprehensive statewide forest planning; (2) competitive landscape-scale forestry grants; (3) a 10-year, $150 million forest woodto-energy technology development program; and (4) financial and technical assistance to communities for acquiring, planning for, and conserving community forests. The Administration's proposal does not include a forest landowner financial assistance program -- reauthorizing the Forest Land Enhancement Program, or creating some new alternative assistance program. Other proposals are likely to be offered for congressional consideration from many possible sources.