Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Farm Bill forestry fund will help bourbon industry

When Kentucky's Senators and Representatives vote on the Farm Bill in the coming weeks, they should remember that it has measures that could benefit the state's bourbon industry, Mark Brown and Tom Martin write for the Courier Journal in Louisville.

Specifically, the Farm Bill funds forestry programs that can help protect oak trees. Federal law specifies that bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, and American white oak is the preferred wood used to create these barrels. But "the popularity of bourbon will soon outpace the growth of white oaks across Kentucky and the Midwest," Brown and Martin write. "Since it takes about 80 years to grow a white oak, we must begin working on this challenge now."

Not only are there very few new, young, white oak trees ready to replace harvested mature ones, but many white oak tree stands haven't been thinned to remove lower quality oaks and allow the good ones to flourish.

Brown and Martin recommend that the final Farm Bill include funding for
  • The Timber Innovation Act and the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act, to encourage research and development of new wood products and expand markets for wood. 
  • The Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act along with continued support for Good Neighbor Authority to support restoration of white oak trees and encourage work on public and private lands. 
  • Strong funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, with continued support for forest owners that need technical and financial help to keep white oaks growing.
The bourbon industry is not the only one that will benefit from these programs; white oak and other hardwood trees are used in flooring, cabinets, furniture and more, and provide an important wildlife habitat for many animals.

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