Recently, I had the honor of testifying before the Senate Committee on Agriculture to discuss the future of the Farm Bill’s forestry and conservation tools and how they apply to family forest owners. From the perspective of an Alabama Tree Farmer and avid sportsman, I can say, my family and I, and many of the 22 million family forest owners across rural America, depend on the Farm Bill programs to help us care for our forests and the resources they produce.

We hope our Alabama Congressional Delegation will consider the importance of family forest owners’ role in providing Alabamians with good-paying jobs, timber, clean water, habitat and more, and the needed support that can help us successfully manage our land.

It is estimated that across the U.S., 1 in 6 rural Americans like me are family forest owners. In Alabama, nearly 400,000 forest owners care for more than 22 million acres of forest habitat needed by our wildlife and at-risk species. And these lands are the main source of timber in our state, fueling a $13 billion industry and supporting 47,000 jobs. Our impact is widely felt.

My wife Dianne and I are two of these family forest owners. We own and care for 2,200 acres of forestland in Conecuh County. We started with just 158 acres as a place to enjoy the outdoors and wildlife, as well as make a bit of income from timber.

Our dream was nearly destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan. But Ivan was a blessing in disguise. As we examined the devastation, we noticed one tree – longleaf pine — survived the hurricane remarkably well.

Read more from Dr. Salem Saloom  at AL.com: https://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/07/alabama_forest_owners_need_the.html