‘We’re gonna get killed’: Several forest policies in farm bill objected by Senate

MEDFORD, Ore.– An $867 billion dollar farm bill was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and will move to the House where it’s also expected to pass.

While focused on the agriculture industry, Congressman Greg Walden (R) held a conference call with members of the Southern Oregonians for Clear Skies Committee Tuesday afternoon to discuss what this will do for forest policy in the state and his constituency around southern Oregon.

At the beginning of the call, Congressman Walden said he had mixed feelings about the farm bill as several programs meant to help southwest Oregon were rejected by the Senate.

“What fell out was our effort that was passed in the House to allow us to go in and remove the burned dead trees while they still have value and plant a new forest,” said Walden. “That whole recovery and restoration after a fire with expedited authorities, a lot of the process the Senate objected to that.”

Along with that program, several other points about wildlife habitat development and a project to improve forest resiliency were all denied in the Senate, according to the congressman.

What did pass were items such as expansions to the Good Neighbor Authority, which will now include counties to encourage more localized forest management with federal agencies and the state.

Another program meant to prevent vegetation growth around utility lines – something known to cause fires – also passed.

“So we got some improvements here but we know now we have a lot of work to do going into next year,” said Walden.

Still, much of the concern was on how smoke will be affecting southern Oregon in the years to come. Most of these programs and funds won’t be implemented until 2020 and in many of what the farm bill addresses in terms of forest policy won’t directly affect areas such as Jackson and Josephine County.

Congressman Walden said next year he plans to try and get the programs objected by the Senate passed in the next farm bill.

But as Dave Schott, a member of the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association put it, “We’re gonna get killed.”

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