Florida Emergency Hurricane State and Private Forestry Programs
After the devastation created by Hurricane Michael, additional resources are needed to recover the Florida Panhandle forests. This vital resource provides healthy watersheds and is critically important in retaining jobs, especially in the hardest hit counties who rely heavily on this industry.
Forest Recovery Act
The Forest Recovery Act would allow any individual or business growing trees with the intent of selling them to deduct up to the fair market value lost as a result of a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane or fire.
Under the current ‘basis limitation rule,’ timber farmers may deduct from their taxes the lesser of either the fair market value lost or the amount of their basis after a catastrophic event. However, to encourage people to farm trees, the tax code allows farmers to deduct their basis over eight years. If trees are lost after eight years, then the basis has most likely been fully deducted and the tax code sees the basis as 0, meaning it is the lesser of the two deduction options, disallowing timber farmers to deduct anything after a catastrophic event.
This legislation would eliminate the ‘basis limitation rule.’
Regulatory Reform: Protect Working Forests
Regulatory policies should facilitate the forest industry’s ability to keep working forests working and providing clean air and water, wildlife habitat, green spaces and jobs. The Association opposes any regulations that unduly threaten the rights of our members to grow, harvest and use forest products.
The Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, which significantly expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act (CWA), is an excellent example of this kind of overreaching regulatory reform. Recognizing the problems embodied in the 2015 rule, President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have announced their intent to rewrite it with a less expansive definition of which waters fall under federal jurisdiction.
Practical Immigration Policies: Support
The H-2B program, managed by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, was created to provide access to nonimmigrant temporary workers for seasonal and peak load needs when no American worker can be found for available positions. The current program is capped at 66,000 visas annually (approximately .04% of the American workforce). Despite this small number, these immigrant workers are critical to many seasonal businesses, including forest management work such as tree planting.
The H-2B visa cap is too low to meet the workforce needs of the sectors that rely on these workers. In addition, Department of Labor regulations associated with employment of these workers has become too complex and costly. Legislation is needed to re-orient the programs to meet the employment needs of seasonal businesses.
While the recent funding bill did authorize the departments to increase the cap when needed for FY 2017, a more complete and permanent solution is still needed. As such, the Agricultural Guestworker Act by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) creates an H-2C program to be administered by USDA. Under this proposed program:
- Employers could employ visa workers for up to 18 consecutive months.
- Visa workers could change jobs after completing contract employment.
- Mandated wage rate would be the higher of state/local wage or 15% above the federal minimum wage.
- There would be no housing or transportation mandate.
- There would be an annual cap of 500,000 with an automatic escalator if all visas are claimed; former H-2A and H-2B workers don’t count against the cap when working for the same employer.
The H2C program would make it easier for employers to get seasonal workers, clearly define the rules and keep the wood supply competitive, while not displacing US workers.
Resilient Federal Forests Act: Support
The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017,” introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), is a bipartisan solution to address the growing economic and environmental threats of catastrophic wild fire. The legislation pairs a responsible budget with targeted forest management reforms to dramatically improve the health and resiliency of our nation’s forests and rangelands. The bill provides federal land management agencies immediate tools to increase the pace, scale and cost ef ciency of forest management projects without sacrificing environmental protections.
The legislation also includes the Future Logging Careers Act, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow 16- and 17-year olds to work in their family’s mechanized logging operations under parental supervision. The agricultural industry enjoys regulatory exemptions that permit 16- and 17-year olds to work in the family business under the direct supervision of their parents. However, without the Future Logging Careers Act, young men and women in families who own and operate timber harvesting operations are denied the right to learn the family trade until the age of 18.
Truck Weights: Increase
Our nation’s federal vehicle weight limit is outdated and out of touch with today’s engineering advancements and consumer needs. The 80,000-pound arbitrary truck weight restriction on Federal Interstate Highways has introduced unnecessary costs and inefficiencies to raw material suppliers and finished product shippers that depend on our roadways every day. In many states, the allowable weight limit for state roads is higher than the limit imposed on federal highways. This anomaly has created a number of unreasonable outcomes, including forcing loggers to travel longer distances on state roads and through small towns instead of safer, more direct routes on the federal interstate. In the forest products sector, moving harvested trees from forest to facility may comprise 30% of a product’s delivered cost, despite the fact that the entire forest product supply chain has worked tirelessly to wring every cent out of the system through innovation and technology.
The Association supports legislation to allow trucks operating at the maximum allowable state road truck weight limit to travel at that weight on that state’s portion of the federal interstate highway system. The bill, known as the Right To Haul Act, would apply only to trucks carrying agricultural commodities, including raw logs. This is a sensible approach to a problem that confronts loggers and farmers looking to trim delivery times and improve efficiency.
Increasing allowable gross vehicle weights on the Federal Interstate Highway system will:
- Conserve fuel.
- Reduce total emissions, including carbon.
- Increase productivity of forest products transport and wood supply management.
- Enhance safety and reduce traffic congestion by reducing the volume of trucks now forced to use state roads as primary hauling arteries, due to their exclusion from the interstate system.
- Reduce congestion and accident-exposure on local roads.
- Improve the U.S. forest industry’s global competitiveness.
Safe Routes Act of 2019: Support
According to a 2018 Virginia Tech study, 96% of logging truck collisions occurred on city, county, or state roads where they encounter school zones, cross walks, intersections, stop signs, oncoming traffic, and railroad crossings. A 2018 University of Georgia study found that 41% of logging truck collisions occurred within only 5 miles of the Interstate.
The Safe Routes Act would allow logging trucks that meet state-determined legal requirements to travel up to 150 air miles on the Federal Interstate Highway System, which a pilot program has shown to greatly reduce both fatal accidents and fossil fuel usage by trucks.