U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today questioned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack at a hearing on the challenges facing farmers, families, and rural communities.
On spring weather conditions (excerpt):
“In South Dakota, we have producers dealing with difficult weather conditions this spring, including – depending on where they are at in the state – severe drought, excess moisture, and significant storm damage. I would urge USDA to provide expedited assistance to those affected producers.”
On proper forest management (excerpt):
“Proper forest management is as important now as it’s ever been, and it plays a critical role in maintaining forest health and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires. In the Black Hills, the forest products industry has been a reliable partner in the proper management of the forest. Unfortunately, last year, a saw mill in the Black Hills closed due to lack of timber availability, and I am concerned that more mill closures could be imminent if the Forest Service does not take action to maintain the forest’s timber sale program.
“Numerous concerns have been raised with the Forest Service’s publication of a general technical report on the forest’s timber sale program and the agency’s failure to uphold its commitment to work collaboratively with industry and state and local officials through consideration of the science-based recommendations from the formal Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board and state foresters. Following the general technical report, we have seen a drastic reduction in timber sales and the loss of milling infrastructure that is critical in meeting the goals outlined in the Forest Service’s 10-year wildfire reduction strategy.”