Commentary: John R. Block Reports from Washington

“Forest Lands”

Hello, everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.

And now today’s commentary-

We always put a high priority on our crop land – corn, beans, wheat and vegetables. Let’s spend some time focusing on our forest land today. We all know that we need lumber from our forests to build our houses. With the extreme heat, wildfires are burning down our forests. Ag Secretary Vilsack tells us that the Forest Service has invested $100 million this year in reforestation. That is more than 3 times the investment last year.

Remember the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed at the beginning of the Biden Presidency? This project led by the USDA Forest Service comes under that act. We are now positioned to rebuild after the devastating wildfires. Secretary Vilsack emphasized – “Forests are a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Nurturing their natural regeneration and planting in areas with the most need is critical to mitigating the worst effects of climate change while also making those forests more resilient to wildfires, drought, disease outbreaks and pest infestation.” The Replant Act directs the Forest Service to plant more than a billion trees over the next decade. This is no small project. Let’s hope we can get it done.

Another subject – we have talked about all the crops our farmers grow. Maybe we are going to have a new and different crop to plant. It is a weed called pennycress and scientists at Illinois State University and other universities genetically engineered the pennycress genes and now have a plant called covercress. It cost $10 million and 7 years of USDA support to develop this new cash crop.

It is planted in the fall after the soybeans are harvested. It could be our cover crop that can be harvested in very early spring before corn planting. Covercress produces seeds that can be processed into oil and meal. Commercial aviation wants to buy 3 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2030. This new source of fuel could help satisfy their demand. Of course, the meal would be animal feed. We don’t know where this is going but this creativity and innovation is a compliment to the ag industry and our scientists.    

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