Year of the Farm Bill...or at least we hope so
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees are putting pen to paper on the next Farm Bill, which expires this year.  In our communications with staff, it is clear that the House is on a glide path to finish drafting the bill by the end of February.  The Senate is on a slower track, but not that far behind-likely early spring.  The timing of marking up these drafts is a little less certain as Farm Bill authorizers (House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairmen) will want assurances from leadership that floor time is available for Farm Bill consideration.  They will not want to report out a bill from committee and then have it languish for potential opponents to pick apart. 
Your Hardwood Federation team has been working hard with our colleagues on a few key policy areas in the Farm Bill.  Our highest priority is seeing that the Market Access and Foreign Market Development programs are authorized for another 5 years and fully funded.  We are supportive of a group that is lobbying Congress to significantly increase funding for both these programs, but based on our feedback from key Congressional staff, we believe that preserving current funding levels is the best we can expect.  Funding for programs in this round of Farm Bill negotiations will be particularly tight.  
We have also been active with the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition on a couple of policy deliverables.  One is the Timber Innovation Act, which would promote using wood to construct taller buildings.  We believe there is tremendous potential for moving markets for hardwood products as acceptance of mass timber grows and we are lending our advocacy help to enact this legislation as part of the Farm Bill.    
Finally, we are working on a biomass energy proposal for inclusion in the Farm Bill which we think will help with our challenges dealing with sawmill residuals.  The program is called the Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP) which would provide grants for installing advanced wood heating systems in public institutions across the country.  The proposal we are advocating, again as part of the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition, is to expand the program's scope to include private institutions and to give the program the funding it needs to deliver on its goals.  Feedback from committee staff and leadership has been generally positive.  We should know definitively in the coming weeks about the progress on all three efforts as details about the drafts become available.

                                                                                                                                                      Dana Lee Cole, Executive Director



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