Listening sessions helpful for Oregonians as farm bill takes shape

Jun 18, 2023 | Author: Mike Barsotti, LCSWA President | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

Opinion

We received two visits this spring from members of Congress asking for our input. “How can the 2023 Farm Bill benefit Oregon” was the gist of their question.

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas representing Oregon’s 6th congressional district held a roundtable listening session in Salem on May 3.

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, representing Oregon’s 5th congressional district, Rep. Salinas, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania held a Farm Bill listening session at Linn-Benton Community College on June 2.

Rep. Salinas and Chavez-DeRemer are House Ag Committee members. Both of them sit on the Ag Committee’s Forestry Subcommittee as well as other subcommittees.

The farm bill is typically renewed every five years. Since the 1930s, Congress has enacted 18 farm bills. The Farm Bill is significant for two major reasons. It sets public policy and it provides assistance on an array of agricultural and food programs. Forestry is one of 12 subcategories called “Titles.”

In public forestry policy, the Farm Bill has addressed conservation in the 1930s, timber supply in the 1970s, and multi-resource forest management in the 1990s. The Farm Bill has funded forest landowner technical assistance primarily through the USDA-Forest Service with pass-through funds to the Department of Forestry and through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Financial assistance has come through the Agricultural Conservation Program in the mid-1930s, Forestry Incentives Program in the 1970s, the Stewardship Incentives Program in the 1990s, and currently through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program which was introduced in the 1996 Farm Bill.

At these two Oregon listening sessions, policy concerns discussed included how to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, how to advance the role of forests as a natural climate solution, and how to provide land owner-needed tree seedlings for both fire recovery and sequestering carbon. Land owner assistance was discussed at several levels —investments in technical assistance through the Oregon State Extension Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and NRCS, and also financial assistance through NRCS’s EQIP and block grants to small land owner non-profits.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the 2023 bill could be the most expensive on record, costing about $709 billion during the next five years.

It’s great that we have two representatives on the House Ag’s Forestry Subcommittee and that they are actively seeking Oregonians’ input by bringing two listening sessions to our state.

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