The Obama Administration last week proposed a new rule that would give local national forest directors more control over their natural resources. The proposed rule overturns a decades-old policy that leaves forest management decisions to officials in Washington.
The planning rule would allow forest managers additional control over the development of Forest Service land management plans. The proposed change is made with an eye to increasing forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.
“The proposed rule will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change. Healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Debate continues today on the Continuing Resolution in the U.S. The bill would fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Many amendments have been proposed and AFBF has taken a position on 22 of them.
Today an amendment was approved that would cut $2 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s budget in protest over the agency’s wild horse roundups. Indiana Republican Dan Burton says his amendment is intended to send a signal to BLM officials that most Americans want the mustangs treated more humanely on public lands. Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says Congress passed a law 40 years ago to protect the horses on the range, but that today there are more than 40,000 in holding pens and only 30,000 in the wild.
Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis was among those opposed. She says the well-meaning horse advocates are “loving the creatures to death” by fueling overpopulation of herds that damage the rangeland they depend upon.
The overall mix of crop production across the country this year is likely to be the same as last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Prices of all commodities are soaring, and there shouldn’t be a big shift from one crop to another.
Analysts expect next month’s planting intentions report by the Agriculture Department will show only minor changes, which could help the price rally for farm commodities.
It will also prove difficult to put more cropland into production. Gerald Bange, chairman of USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board, signaled at AFBF’s annual meeting in Atlanta in January that 10.7 million acres could move into production this year, but some analysts believe this land won’t move into use because it is often less productive.
The USDA Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule on Thursday to establish a new national framework to develop land management plans in the National Forest System.The proposed rule includes new provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber.
Publication of the proposed planning rule in the Federal Register will kick off a 90-day public comment period, ending May 16. The Forest Service will use comments to develop a final rule.
The Pulse will feature a more in depth look at the proposed rule next week.
Egg producers in Washington are working to prempt HSUS and its planned ballot measure to limit the food choice of citizens in the state. Two bills which carry bipartisan support are working their way through the Washington legislature would establish minimum standards for egg laying hen farms.
The bills would codify the United Egg Producer production and housing standards into Washington law. The program addresses such issues as hen space requirements, air quality, handling standards, hen treatment and facility requirements.
Kiasa Kuykendall, of Stiebrs Farms in Yelm, Wash., told the senators the HSUS asked her farm to go 100 percent cage-free. About 5 percent of her farm’s eggs are from cage-free hens.
“The proposed ban (on cages) would go against the customers. We would not survive,” she said.
The Agriculture Department’s dramatic 9 percent cut in the estimate of corn stocks puts the stocks-to-use ratio at the lowest level since the Great Depression, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he believes there will be enough corn for food, feed, fuel and exports.
Joe Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, said corn stocks will remain tight until 2012 and it will take time to rebuild. The stocks-to-use ratio for the 2010-2011 marketing year, which runs through Aug. 31, is estimated at 5 percent, the lowest since 1995-1996. In 1936-1937, during the Great Depression, the stocks-to-use ratio was the lowest ever at 4.5 percent. The average ratio is 13 percent.
The reserve sluice at Chatfield reservoir
According to a Denver Post examination, Colorado could increase its water storage capacity by the equivalent of four Chatfield Reservoir’s if the state’s water project funds were adequate. Many dams in the state are far from full capacity, limited by safety concerns from the Department of Natural Resources. The department says it lacks the funds to repair existing dams that have been deemed unsafe.
Over the last five years the state loaned $80.5 million to landowners to help rehabilitate 35 dams. But since 2009, lawmakers have siphoned off $120 million from the states water project fund to help close the budget gap.
Lawmakers this year alone attempted to take another $10 million from the fund, but Rep. John Becker (R- Ft. Morgan) told members at the CFB Legislative Conference that he was able to block the joint budget committee from taking the full amount. Thanks to his efforts, the JBC only raided $5 million from the fund.
All of this comes at a time when water managers across the state are looking for ways to increase water storage capacity in the face of a growing population. Repairing existing dams requires much less money and does not require the long regulatory approval process that is necessary to build new dams.