At the beginning of this month Congress passed a $956.4 billion farm bill by an overwhelming and rare bipartisan approval of 68-32 votes in the Senate. In addition to lowering the deficit by $23 billion, this bill stands for the most significant reform of American agricultural policy in decades. Officially known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, the farm bill sets policies for an extensive range of agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry programs over the next 5 years.
Although a relatively small portion of the bill, The Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program which was threatened in previous versions of the bill, ended up faring well in the finalized version of the bill, retaining all of its existing legislative and funding authorities. A section of the bill also contains an important provision for the Forest Service to revise its current plan for forest inventory and analysis to include an urban forest assessment as one of the elements of the plan, stating it must: “Implement an annualized inventory of trees in urban settings, including the status and trends of trees and forests, and assessments of their ecosystem services, values, health, and risk to pests and diseases.” Meaning all urban trees will now get the same protection and standards as all other protected forests across the country. The bill also supports projects like urban greenhouses, community gardens, and community-based nutrition education for low-income families that help address community food security and support local economies.
In conclusion, with Urban Forest legislation and funding intact for the next 5 years in addition to the new assessment standards for urban forests, this bill is great news to organizations and programs focused on the growth and conservation of urban trees and gardens and ultimately great news for cities nationwide.
For more information regarding other factors effected by the expansive 959 page bill, please visit the Senate site here: http://www.ag.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senate-approves-2014-farm-bill