On Dec. 11, 2018, with my support, the U.S. Senate passed the final version of the new Farm Bill by an overwhelmingly, bipartisan vote of 87-13. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation the next day also by a broad, bipartisan vote of 369-47 before it went to President Trump to sign into law. Enactment of the new Farm Bill provides certainty agriculture producers in Idaho and across the nation need as they continue to face a challenging farm economy while ensuring the continuation of important research, promotion and conservation programs.
I have often noted that the Farm Bill affects a wide swath of federal policy far beyond what is considered traditional agricultural commodity programs. The Farm Bill includes federal nutrition, conservation, rural development, energy, world market access, forestry, specialty crop, organics and many other programs. The new Farm Bill preserves the ability for farmers to manage risk by maintaining crop insurance and commodity programs; maintains conservation programs to protect and enhance the natural resources farmers and ranchers depend upon to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber; and includes strong research and promotional programs for specialty crops. The law also includes the following provisions of importance to Idaho production:
Timber Innovation: The new law includes the Timber Innovation Act that fellow Senators James Risch (R-Idaho), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and I initially introduced as a stand-alone bill. This provision will help accelerate research and development—and ultimately construction—of wood buildings in the United States. This law focuses on finding innovative ways to use wood in the construction of buildings above 85 feet in height, or roughly seven or more stories.
While timber products have been an integral part of construction for centuries, most wood buildings do not exceed three to four stories. However, with recent developments in mass timber engineering alongside other new technologies, it is now possible to expand the use of wood into larger construction projects in a safe, innovative, effective and environmentally sound way.
Collaborative Forestry: The law includes a 10-year reauthorization of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). With support from Senator Risch, I led the effort to include this provision. The CFLRP has enabled the expansion of active collaborative land-use groups in Idaho. The U.S. Forest Service reported that $1.2 billion in local labor income, and an average of 5,180 jobs were created or maintained each year nationwide through CFLRP projects. The CLFRP will move more of the decision-making on the use of our public lands back to states and local collaborative groups to lead the planning process for Idaho’s forests. The CFLRP encourages large-scale (50,000+ acres) collaborative, science-based forest restoration in a way that encourages environmental and economic sustainability.
Foreign Market Expansion: The law also contains the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP). Thanks to the FMDP, thousands of small and medium-sized family farms, including many in Idaho, have been able to reach more foreign markets, opening up new opportunities and adding billions of dollars to our nation’s agricultural industry.
Forest Restoration: The law also includes an expansion of Good Neighbor Authority (GNA), which Senator Risch and I have long championed and has been successful in increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration across Idaho since it was enacted in the 2014 Farm Bill. GNA will permit Idaho’s counties and native tribes to enter into contracts for the purpose of managing and completing needed maintenance in national forests.
These are just a few highlights from this important law. I will continue to work with Idaho producers, the administration, fellow members of Congress and others to help ensure that it is implemented effectively.