Update: Forestry and Conservation Programs in the 2018 Farm Bill

Posted: January 11, 2019

As of December 2018, after months of negotiations, the US House and Senate have reached agreement and will soon be sending the 2018 Farm Bill for final approval by the President. The Farm Bill continues to support farmers in producing food while also improving the natural resources upon which we all depend. The Farm Bill has played a significant role in helping people care for their woodlands since the bill’s Forestry Title was first created in 2002.

Through access to planning and technical assistance and cost-share support, countless woodland owners who may not otherwise be able or motivated to undertake active stewardship of their woodlands have been helped by the Farm Bill. The Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition – a network of more than 100 organizations representing wildlife, wood products, and landowners’ needs – gave prioritized recommendations to Congress and were pleased that many of the recommendations were adopted. Many of the changes to the Farm Bill are meant to promote better communication and the ability to collaborate to improve the public benefits derived from state- and privately-owned forestland. Notable components of the 2018 Farm Bill relevant to woodland owners include:

  • Codification of the Landscape Scale Restoration Program, a competitive grant program for financial and technical assistance to encourage collaboration in science-based restoration of priority forest landscapes. Recognizing the importance of cross-boundary, landscape-scale restoration on state and private lands, the Bill authorizes $20 million toward grants for each fiscal year through 2023.
  • Establishment of a National Reforestation Initiative that addresses threats to retaining privately-owned woodlands. The initiative will utilize USDA programs that promote “Keeping Forests as Forests” and incentivize reforestation in state-prioritized areas.
  • Allocation of funds for beginning farmers, ranchers, and woodland owners. 
  • Retention of the Conservation Stewardship Program. The 2018 bill increases the acreage to be covered and includes an act to encourage forest management and preservation.
  • Authorization for the US Forest Service to focus on expanding markets for wood products, including those applicable to privately-owned woodlands.
  • Establishment of and funding for the Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development. The interagency council will focus on economic prosperity, quality of life, and innovative regional problem-solving in rural communities, including conservation efforts.
  • Continued funding for the Conservation Innovation Grant, providing $25 million per year (2019-2023) for innovative projects focusing on increasing green space, pollinator habitat, stormwater management, and carbon sequestration.
  • Incentivization of enrolling riparian buffers via the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Harvesting from food-producing woody plants is allowable, and only native plants may be planted within 35 feet of the waterway.
  • Streamlining of programs including the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The intention is that streamlining application and implementation of these programs will make the programs more accessible to landowners, allow greater flexibility, and will result in improved conservation outcomes. Contracts of CSP enrollees will no longer automatically renew, allowing greater access to the program by new applicants.

Contact Information

Leslie Horner
  • Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-867-5982