|June 20, 2012|
Legislation Seeks Parity For U.S.-made Forest Products Under USDA’s Biobased Markets Program
In late May, U.S. Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced the Forest Products Fairness Act of 2012. This bipartisan legislation would open new opportunities for American forestry producers by allowing their products to qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Biobased Markets Program, also known as BioPreferred.
USDA’s Biobased Markets Program was originally designed “to increase the purchase and use of biobased products.” The program requires USDA to set federal procurement standards and a voluntary label for biobased products, which allows producers to market their products as “USDA certified biobased.” As currently implemented by USDA, most forest products are excluded from both the federal procurement preference and the “USDA certified” label. As a result, foreign-produced, imported materials are given preference in the program, rather than U.S.-made forest products.
The Forest Products Fairness Act of 2012 would modify the definition of “biobased product” – as defined in the Federal Farm Bill – to include U.S. forest products in the Biobased Markets Program.
Rep. Thompson stated that "The Forest Products Fairness Act of 2012 will offer producers stronger, expanded product markets, so that the industry can better compete in the global marketplace. This modification is a win-win for consumers and producers, along with the promotion of healthy, well managed forests, and the protection of communities that rely on these jobs and industries to survive."
"The timber and wood products industries in Oregon and across the nation are struggling to keep afloat as our nation's economy slowly recovers," said Rep. Schrader. "Continuing to place a sustainable, American made product at a disadvantage is unacceptable at a time when we need to be investing and creating jobs here at home, not overseas. The Forest Products Fairness Act will ensure these vital U.S. industries have a chance to grow and compete globally."
The Forest Landowners Association has supported Rep. Thompson and Schrader’s efforts along with the companion legislation in the Senate.
EPA Posts Notice of Intent
Agency Outlines Steps to Address the Ninth Circuit Court Decision on Forest Roads.
Key points of the 33 page notice are as follows:
The EPA’s notice represents a positive step in the right direction from an overall policy standpoint. However, it does not provide the certainty needed to prevent further adverse action by the Ninth Circuit or the potential for future agency rulemaking.
- EPA will move expeditiously to propose a revision to its rules to specify that discharges from logging roads are not industrial activity and, therefore, not subject to mandatory permits.
- Because the permit moratorium expires on September 30, 2012, EPA intends to move expeditiously to complete the revision—presumably by September 30.
- EPA will also study water quality impacts of forest roads and existing BMP programs to determine if additional agency action is necessary. The focus of this study will be on roads that “were not properly constructed or maintained.” The study has no stated timeline, and the regulatory outcomes associated with it are uncertain at this point.
- EPA retains discretion to require permits in the future if the agency determines they were necessary.
- EPA will provide a thirty day comment period on this notice seeking public input on 1) potential approaches for addressing discharges from forest roads; and 2) successful existing programs.
The Solicitor General filed his brief suggesting that the Supreme Court not take the case on the grounds that the agency is pursuing an administrative remedy.
EPA’s announcement is positive progress in that the Administration is now on record in favor of a non-permit policy approach.
FLA will submit comments on EPA’s NOI this week and reference the success of BMPs and landowners commitment to comply with the Clean Water Act as an example of how successful this approach is to dealing with forest road erosion issues on private forestlands.
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