After a long period of negotiations, the House and Senate approved a final version of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), which is also known as the Farm Bill. While the primary purpose of the Farm Bill is to reauthorize agricultural-focused programs and grants, H.R. 2 served as an important vehicle to address a number of priorities for the fire and emergency service:
- Rural EMS Funding: In passing H.R. 2, Congress created an important new funding opportunity for rural emergency medical services (EMS) agencies. The Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs Act (SIREN Act) has been a top IAFC priority and will providing funding to help rural fire departments bolster their EMS capabilities. SIREN funds require a 10% match and may be used to purchase EMS equipment and supplies, recruit new personnel, and provide training classes. Fire departments would be eligible for SIREN funding even if they’re just a first response agency and don’t provide transportation services. Keep your eyes open for more information from the IAFC for when the SIREN application period opens.
- Cross-Boundary Fuels Removals: H.R. 2 contained an authorization for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to provide up to $20 million in grants each year for state foresters to conduct hazardous fuels removals projects on lands that straddle federal and non-federal borders. These types of projects can reduce the chances of a major wildland fire incident by improving the health of these often over-looked forest lands. The IAFC is excited for the USFS and state forestry agencies to have another tool for mitigating hazardous land conditions that contribute to wildland fires.
- Continued Support for Fire Safe Cigarette Laws: The House-passed version of the Farm Bill included a provision which restricted a state’s ability to regulate agricultural products made in another state. While this provision wasn’t intended to impact fire safety, it could have overturned fire-safe cigarette laws in all 50 states. The IAFC was pleased to join other national fire service organizations in urging Congress to reject this provision and preserve fire-safe cigarette laws. The final negotiated version of H.R. 2 rejects this provision and maintains state-passed fire-safe cigarette laws.
The IAFC is especially grateful to all the IAFC members who contacted their Representatives and Senators in support of these provisions. Members of Congress place an enormous value on the input of their local fire chiefs. Please see the IAFC Government Relations website or contact the IAFC to help share the fire service’s needs with Congress.
Evan Davis is the IAFC's government relations manager and liaison to the EMS Section.