“We must ensure conservation programs remain voluntary, market-driven, and incentive based. Each producer must remain in charge of what operations occur within their farmland and forestland.”
WASHINGTON — During a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing today covering conservation and forestry programs in the 2023 Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials about protecting Alabama’s farming and forestry industry in the 2023 Farm Bill. Senator Tuberville and his colleagues also discussed supporting foresters during natural disasters, promoting the timber and wood products industry, and ensuring conservation programs remain incentive driven.
Senator Tuberville opened his remarks with the following statement:
“I want to thank our witnesses for being here. In particular, I want to recognize and thank Ms. Angela Coleman, an Alabama native and a Troy University graduate. Today is significant for my state of Alabama because farming and forestry combined make up the largest industry in the state. Alabama has 23.1 million acres of forests — 94 percent of which are owned by private landowners, which is important — we also have four national forests and four state forests. For our forests to thrive, we must manage and harvest our timber. For our farms to continue producing food for the world, we must keep working forests and farmland in production. Our farmers and foresters are true conservationists that have been implementing, and will continue to implement, sustainable practices that benefit our environment for generations to come. We must ensure conservation programs remain voluntary, market-driven, and incentive based. Each producer must remain in charge of what operations occur within their farmland and forestland. Mandates on our producers will not be entertained to any degree. As we consider this costly $1.4 trillion Farm Bill and the $25 billion in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) spending for Forestry and Conservation programs — we must recognize the price tag of these programs, their damage to our national debt, and the effect of government incentives to take working forests and farmland out of production.”
Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s line of questioning can be found below, and his full remarks can be found here.
ON FERAL SWINE ERADICATION:
TUBERVILLE: “I can’t believe we have gone through this hearing for so long without talking about feral hogs. I can’t go anywhere without farmers and foresters staying after me about having their crops and their land destroyed. The 2018 Farm Bill included $75 million for the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program. How can we implement this better and do better? And do we need more money in the Farm Bill to help with this?”
COSBY: “Thank you for the question, Senator. We’ve been working very closely with our friends at APHIS to look at this problem and we’ve been providing incentives also for this. One of the things is that our incentives go for a certain thing. You know, we don’t eradicate. We don’t do those type things. But we can help with technologies and how do you get rid of these things. And we’ve heard this all over. I’m from the state of Mississippi. We have the same issue with feral hogs, and we just need to do a better job with the technology that traps them, and what happens to them after that, who knows? But yes, we do need to work very closely with the federal family to figure out how do we do this because it is devastating when you go out and you look at a field that has been turned over overnight or a farmer loses all of it, all the alfalfa or whatever has been planted there. So, yes, it is a problem. It is something that we need to talk about. How do we aid the farmers in fixing it?”
TUBERVILLE: “Do you think we need more money in the Farm Bill for this?”
COSBY: “So, the money that we’ve gotten so far, we’ve effectively used and so we’ll look at other areas and other ways and see if there is more money available to put towards this.”
ON PROTECTING CRITICAL FOREST RESOURCES:
TUBERVILLE: “Because forestry is so important to our state, I want to be sure it is protected. In the South, insects and diseases like the southern pine beetle and pine decline can decimate pine tree species. How is the Forest Service monitoring and preparing for outbreaks that could decimate our critical forest resources?”
COLEMAN: “Thank you so much for the question, Senator. We have a very active – in our state and private forestry program – a very active pest management group. And certainly, we’ve all seen the devastation of the southern pine beetle and other pests throughout the country, and climate change has only ramped up the effects. There was support and funding from recent legislation that really helps us to deliver in Farm Bill authority, that helps us deliver much more effective monitoring and entire eradication or at least response to those infestations. So clearly, it’s very much a part of our forest health work in the agency, and it’s also a contributor to our overall strategy when it comes to resilience and healthy forests.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.