Forest Advocate: Proposed Farm Bill Reauthorization Contains New Forest Conservation Program

Matt Leahy | May 28, 2024

The proposed Farm Bill reauthorization the U.S. House of Representatives will consider includes a Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP). This new program is modeled on the the established Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. FCEP would assist eligible organizations, like the Forest Society, with the purchase of development rights from willing private landowners to prevent conversions to non-forest uses while maintaining working forests. (Read a summary of the legislation here.)

The Forest Society strongly supports the inclusion of FCEP in the next Farm Bill. The organization is part of a national coalition of organizations that have been advocating for this action. (Read the press release here.) 

What is especially exciting about the announcement is that the proposal before the U.S. House of Representatives contains $240 million (over 5 years) for the Forest Conservation Easement Program. This additional funding will help landowners, land trusts, and state and local agencies to keep forests as forests. 

It is important to remember that the Farm Bill is one of the largest and most complex pieces of legislation the Congress considers. 

In addition to the section on conservation programs, the Farm Bill includes 11 other sections on topics including support for major commodity crops, nutrition assistance for low-income households, and rural development programs. Each of these issues has its own set of stakeholders, who each advocate for, or against, proposals relating to these issues. Adding to the complexity of passing the reauthorization, the U.S. Senate will also consider its own version of the Farm Bill that likely will differ from the version in the House of Representatives.

The Forest Society will continue to monitor the status of the Farm Bill reauthorization as it works through this process. We will post additional updates as they become available.