NC State Extension Publications

The Farm Bill 2018

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The Congress passed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, in December 2018. This bill modifies and reauthorizes several agricultural and natural resource assistance programs for the next five years. In this article, we present some of the forestry related programs and their updates in the 2018 Farm Bill that are relevant for forest landowners.

The Farm Bill 2018 specifies several provisions to provide financial and technical assistance to forest landowners primarily under three laws: the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act, and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (CRS, 2019). This updated bill reauthorizes the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, Rural Revitalization Technology, National Forest Foundation, and funding for implementing statewide forest resource assessments. On the other hand, several conservation and energy programs also include forestry and forest landowners in their program scope and eligibility.

Forestry-Specific Programs in Farm Bill 2018

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The major programs listed in the Forestry section (Title VIII) of the Farm Bill include:

Program

Description

Notable Changes in Funding

Landscape Scale Restoration Program

Supports innovative regional or national forest restoration projects

Establishes the state and private forest landscape-scale restoration fund of $20 million annually. Funding for projects requires a 50% cost-share match.

Forest Legacy Program

This program protects forests from being converted into non-forest uses.

Authorizes $35 million annually, but eliminates permanent authority to receive annual appropriations

Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program

Provides financial assistance to local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, and nonprofit organizations to establish community forests

$5 million annually, but eliminates permanent authority to receive annual appropriations

Hazardous Fuel Reduction Projects on national forest system (NFS) land

Protects at-risk communities and defines the wildland urban interface (WUI)

Up to $20 million annually to provide financial assistance to states for cross-boundary hazardous fuels reduction. Specifies at least 50% of the funds to projects on federal lands within the WUI

Water Source Protection Program on NFS land

Watershed restoration or protection projects under a water source management plan

$10 million in annual appropriations

Healthy Forests Reserve Program

Assists private and tribal landowners in restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems using long-term contracts and easements

$12 million annually, subject to appropriations

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

This program selects and provides funding for collaboratively-developed forest restoration projects on NFS, federal, state, or private land

$80 million annually

Wood Innovation Grant Program

This former NFS grant system is now an official program. Facilitates the use of innovative wood products, mass timber and tall wood buildings

A 50% cost-share to establish research, education and technical assistance program for expanding wood energy and wood product markets

Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Program

Provides financial assistance to install public or private wood energy systems or to construct plants that use or produce innovative wood products including mass timber

$25 million annually, subject to appropriations. The percentage in cost-share can vary with the highest possible percent capped at 50%.

Rural Revitalization Technologies Program

Provides technical and financial assistance to facilitate biomass or other small-diameter wood product use for small-scale business enterprise

Up to $5 million annually, funded through allocation from the hazardous fuels management program.

Statewide forest resource assessments and strategies

Reauthorizes funding of up to $10 million annually

Forestry in Conservation and Energy Programs of Farm Bill 2018

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Besides specific programs related to forestry, several conservation (Title II) and energy (Title IX) cover subprograms directly and indirectly related with forests and forest landowners. Some of these programs include:

Program

Description

Notable Changes in Funding

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

This program is meant to optimize production and environmental benefits by assisting producers. It is a primary program to address multiple natural resource concerns including various forestry areas. It has now been expanded to include climate adaptation. Similarly, it is now required to spend 10% of payments on wildlife habitat contracts.

Annual funding raises from $1.75 billion in FY 2019 to $2.03 billion in FY 2023.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

This program provides financial and technical assistance through agriculture land (including non-industrial forests) and wetland easements. Private landowners are no longer required to equal or match 50% of the funding by the federal government if those landowners contribute their own funds

Funding was set to $450 million in mandatory funding annually. Previous funding varied greatly by year.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The largest land retention program offers annual rental payments to landowners to conserve land that is highly-erodible or environmentally sensitive. Annual payments have been reduced in general to make up for the increase in annual acres. Payments for forest thinning have been reduced from 150% of cost to 100% of cost.

CRP funding has been increased to $12 million for forest thinning, $50 million for transition contracts, and $5 million for technical assistance between 2019 and 2023.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

This program is responsible for encouraging producers to address resource concerns by offering payments in exchange for performing conservation activities.

CSP is now a part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

The program is responsible for furthering conservation, restoration and sustainability on a regional or watershed scale. The role of the RCPP has been expanded to include flexible delivery of conservation assistance, the coordination of conservation projects, and engagement with eligible producers.

Funding is doubled to $200 million annually. Agreements are now more flexible as they can now be longer than five years and be renewed if objectives are met or exceeded

Biobased Markets Program

This program promotes the purchase of biobased products through requiring federal agencies to purchase biobased products and offering voluntary labeling for biobased products.

$3 million in mandatory funding annually and up to $3 million in appropriations annually

Biomass Crop Assistance Program

This program provides payments to owners and operators of agricultural land and non-industrial forests that establish, produce, and deliver biomass to eligible processing plants.

Funding is replaced with up to $25 million annually in appropriations.

Repealed Programs

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Prominent programs that were repealed under Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978 and Global Climate Change Prevention Act of 1990 include:

Wood Fiber Recycling Research Program

Forestry Student Grant Program

Biomass Energy Demonstration Program

Biomass Commercial Utilization Program

For More Information

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For more information specific to any aforementioned programs, please visit:

Congressional Research Service (CRS). 2019. The 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334): Summary and Side-by-Side Comparison. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45525.

Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20190424213658/https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2.

Authors

Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Forest Economics
Forestry & Environmental Resources
Student Research Associate
Forestry & Environmental Resources
Graduate Research Assistant
Forestry and Environmental Resources

Publication date: Aug. 5, 2019
Revised: Aug. 6, 2019

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