President Obama signed into law the 2014 Farm Bill on February 7, 2014. The new law provides many important authorizations for rural development, energy, forestry, and conservation programs that serve the Northern Forest. This is a significant step forward after Congress delayed passing a Farm Bill for two years. Congratulations to all the advocates and partners that worked hard to make sure a collective voice for the Northern Forest was heard in the process. Some provisions of note:
Conservation (Title II)
- Conservation Stewardship Program: Authorizes through 2018. Removes the 10% enrollment cap on nonindustrial private forestland acreage
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program & Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program: Consolidates WHIP with EQIP, with at least 5 percent of EQIP funds set aside for WHIP funding. Funded at: $1.35 billion for 2014, $1.65 billion for 2015-2017, $1.75 billion for 2018
Rural Development (Title VI)
- Mandatory Funding: includes $228 million in mandatory funding (the last Farm Bill included $150 million in mandatory funding for rural development). Mandatory money in this bill includes.
- $150 million for Water and Waste Water Program
- $63 million for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program
- $15 million for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program
- $100 million for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development
- RBEG/RBOG consolidation: Rural Business Opportunity Grants and Rural Business Enterprise Grants are combined in to a new program: Rural Business Development Grants, authorized at $65 million annually through 2018. No more than 10% of appropriated funding may be used for RBOG grants.
- Strategic Economic and Community Development: Authorizes the Secretary to prioritize and use up to 10% of funding for projects that support regional approaches to community and economic development.
- Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zones: Reauthorizes this initiative, which includes the VT REAP zone.
- Northern Border Regional Commission: Reauthorizes at $30 million annually through 2018. Eliminates cap on administrative expense if annual appropriations are less than $10 million.
Forestry (Title VIII)
- State-Wide Assessment and Strategies for Forest Resources. Extends the program through 2018.
- Forest Legacy Program, Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program: The conference report does not include provisions of the House version that would have capped annual funding for these programs.
Energy (Title IX)
- Rural Energy for American Program (REAP): Mandatory funding at $50 million a year from 2014 – 2018. Allows RC&D councils to be eligible for energy audit and technical assistance portion of the program. Sets up a tiered application process based on funding.
- Community Wood Energy Program: Reauthorizes at $5 million annually and expands to include consumer cooperatives.
Sources for the information above and good places to get the full details on the bill include:
- Forestry Provisions - Comparison of House and Senate-Passed Farm Bills and final Conference Report (American Forest Foundation)
- Full Conference Report