The fate of The farm bill has come down to forestry-policy changes that the Trump administration says it wants in order to discourage fires like the ones that have recently devastated California.
In a pre-Thanksgiving news conference, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who manages the U.S. Forest Service, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who manages other agencies with forest lands, said the conference report on the House- and Senate-passed bills should include forestry provisions that are in the House bill, which passed with only Republican votes.
Those provisions would give the agencies that manage the nation’s forests authority to engage in “good neighbor” partnerships with localities and tribes, clear the forest floors of dead trees and dense brush, engage in more prescribed burns of forests to discourage fires on a larger scale, and allow for the expedited approval of salvage-logging projects to remove charred and dead logs after a fire. Perdue said during the call that the administration was not asking for authority for “clear-cutting” of forests, a practice that grossly offends environmentalists. But Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont said in a quickly issued news release, “It is outrageous that House Republicans and the Trump administration are continuing to hold up the farm-bill negotiations over harmful and extreme forestry provisions.