The USDA will pro-rate its final round of pandemic payments to timber harvesters and haulers to stay within the $200 million limit for the aid program, officials said on Thursday. Meanwhile, USDA data showed disbursements of $6.98 billion in coronavirus relief to farmers and ranchers this year.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced up to $200 million in pandemic relief for loggers and timber haulers on Tuesday and said "there is more to come" for agriculture in the weeks ahead. Aid will include $700 million for biofuel producers and $980 million in dairy supports.
The Biden administration will end large-scale sales of old-growth timber in the Tongass National Forest on the Alaska panhandle, the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday.
Citing recent increases in timber sales from the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the Forest Service to "identify new opportunities to increase America's energy dominance and reduce reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals." In a memo to the Forest Service chief, Perdue also said livestock grazing should be regarded as an essential part of management of the grasslands that are part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System.
Three weeks remain in the lame-duck session and farm bill negotiators are at odds over the forestry title of the farm bill despite hopes of enacting the bill this year. Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy puts the blame on the Trump administration and House Republicans for seeking "extremely partisan provisions on behalf of a small minority in the timber industry."
The reason Americans rarely take timber jobs in public forests isn’t because they don’t like to work hard. It’s because a combination of immigration laws, tight federal budgets and divisive politics have turned forestry jobs into little more than low-paid servitude, writes Hal Herring in FERN’s story [LINK] with High Country News.
The national forests are frequently judged on two criteria: How many board feet of timber they produce and how much the government spends to fight wildfires, says the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy institute. In a report, it says the 2018 farm bill could create rural jobs, protect drinking water and wildlife, and reduce fire risks by doubling forest restoration work.
Faced with climate change and cheap competition from countries like China, the American pine nut trade shows no signs of recovery. Long a staple food for Native American tribes in the Southwest, including the Navajo and Apache, 8 million pounds of pine nuts were wild-harvested in 1942, from New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.