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.’
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.
Congress must provide permanent and meaningful H-2B cap relief in the FY 2020 appropriations legislation.
The Paperwork Reduction for Farmers and H-2A Modernization Act (S. 1887) would allow forestry, as well as other businesses in the capped H-2B program, to apply for visas in the uncapped H-2A program as an option. Anyone that would like to remain under the H-2B program may do so. Additionally, the bill simplifies and expedites the application process for returning workers, develops an online application process, and requires the government to promptly provide a reason for a denial or delay to the employer.
Resilient Federal Forests Act: Support
The “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2019,” 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.
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.
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.