PennFuture Statement: Farm Bill Must Protect PA Forests and Our Environment

HARRISBURG, Pa. (May 16, 2018) – PennFuture this week urges representatives and senators to work together towards a bipartisan Farm Bill that will better protect forests, farmers and the environment, ensuring that it is free of provisions that will put land, water, and wildlife in jeopardy. The bill currently cuts protections and funding for the environment and conservation, and also includes draconian work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The United States House of Representatives is poised to push through and vote on the House version of the Farm Bill in Washington, D.C. later this week. 
“In what is typically a bipartisan effort to craft legislation to help our farmers, low-income communities, and conservation work every four years, the Farm Bill in its current form is both ideological and harmful,” said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. “The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) is replete with attacks on bedrock environmental laws and America’s national forests, and it includes numerous categorical exemptions from public input and environmental review on forestry projects, incentivizing logging over clean water, recreation, and wildlife. Further, it undermines the National Environmental Policy Act.”
The Farm Bill is the largest federal source of conservation funding on private and public land. Over the past 50 years, the Farm Bill has supported landowners and farmers in Pennsylvania who want to improve water quality and conserve wildlife habitat on their lands. 
The current Farm Bill’s (Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2014) authorization expires at the end of September, and the legislation currently under consideration would provide funding through 2023.
The bill in its current form goes back on a long-sought-after and hard-won bipartisan fire funding compromise signed into law only a few months ago as a part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act. This partisan, one-sided Farm Bill goes on to attack the Roadless Area Conservation Rule by creating a loophole allowing logging and costly road-building in protected and precious forest areas, including parts of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest in the northwest region. 
The bill also attacks the Endangered Species Act by removing a requirement for expert consultation regarding endangered species and critical habitat. 
“We need the Forest Service to consider how water, soil, and wildlife are affected by large-scale projects – not cut back on protections and reviews to favor the industry,” Bonomo said. “We must keep public lands in public hands. All Americans deserve a say in how these lands are managed, not just those out to make a profit.”
As it stands, the House bill’s conservation title is a solid start, but it could be stronger. PennFuture is pleased with the five million-acre increase in the conservation reserve program, the increase in funding for the easement program and the continuation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. However, the bill cuts nearly $800 million from the conservation title over a ten-year period, and this funding must be restored.
PennFuture is leading the transition to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania, fighting big polluters with legal muscle, enforcing environmental laws, and supporting legislative policy that protects public health. PennFuture is engaging and educating citizens about the realities of climate change, and giving them the tools needed to influence lawmakers on the issues. Visit www.pennfuture.org for more information.
Stephanie Rex, Director of Communications, PennFuture