Congress returned to Washington to a heavy workload with several items focused on issues of importance for forestry ownership. FLA has been deeply engaged on all fronts ensuring legislation and administration policy is favorable to rolling back regulations, strengthening timber markets and advocating tax reform and provisions unique to forest ownership.
As Congress returns from summer recess, tax reform tops the agenda. While details are yet to be released, Republican lawmakers are pursuing a revamp of the corporate and individual tax systems.
FLA continues to be vigilant in advocating the importance of timber tax provisions and estate tax to the legacy of family forest operations. FLA has been engaged in meetings with legislative influencers including the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Ways & Means Committee advocating for tax provisions which benefit family forestry businesses. This week, FLA CEO Scott Jones will be back in Washington, meeting with Senior Tax Counsel for Speaker Ryan and Senior Tax Counsel for Senator Thune, who serves on the Finance Committee as well as the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee.
The road to a final legislative tax reform will be bumpy, and we need to remain engaged to ensure that forest landowners’ unique needs are protected. FLA will continue to reach out to policymakers to make sure they understand the vital role forests and the industries they support play in the American economy and environment. However, YOUR VOICES AND ENGAGEMENT IS VITAL. FLA’s Calls To Engage and the incredible response by forest landowners is making a difference. Members of Congress are telling us that their forest landowner constituents have been vocal and their stories are being heard.
Be sure to watch your email for Calls to Action for when to contact your representatives on key issues.
Softwood Lumber Agreement
On August 29, the Department of Commerce announced a two-month delay in its final subsidy determination for softwood lumber from Canada until November 14. Secretary Ross issued a statement indicating that the delay is intended to provide more time to negotiate with Canada. World Trade Organization rules and U.S. law prohibit the United States from collecting countervailing duties in the absence of a final determination if more than 120 days have passed since the preliminary determination. Therefore, this decision to delay a determination will effectively result in a lengthy period during which the 20% anti-subsidy tariff on softwood lumber does not apply to Canadian imports (the “gap” period). Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were vocal in their response to Secretary Ross’s decision to postpone the determination.
“The administration’s decision forces American companies to pay the price for continued talks with Canada. This delay creates a window for Canadian companies to ship subsidized lumber to the U.S. without paying tariffs, inviting major harm to U.S. producers and workers. I support continued negotiations to reach a lasting solution on softwood lumber, but more talks need not and should not come at the cost of not enforcing the law.” Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore
FLA is working with the Softwood Lumber Coalition by engaging with Members of Congress as well as the Department of Commerce to achieve a favorable outcome for U.S. wood markets. FLA is advocating a deal with a “clean quota” that would have strict market share limits for Canada. Clean quota is defined as a percentage of the US market without special provisions. As the market grows, there is more volume that is able to come in. As the market shrinks, there is less volume that is able to come in.
Rollback on WOTUS Continues. FLA Submits Comments to EPA
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the deadline to comment on the re-codification of the definition of “waters of the United States” until September 27. On August 15, FLA submitted comments on behalf of FLA members and indicated that provisions from the 2015 Rule are in various respects, beyond the Agencies’ statutory authority, inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, and contrary to the goals of the Clean Water Act.
Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act (ESA) has imposed restrictions that can prevent landowners from developing and altering their property, often causing financial harm by impacting profitability and management rights. FLA has been vocal about the need to consider real-world impacts when protecting endangered species and is tracking five key bills aimed at reforming the outdated law.
Secretary Perdue’s “Back to Our Roots” Tour
Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, visited five Midwestern states as part of his Back to Our Roots tour, where he sought input on the 2018 farm bill and rural prosperity. On his tour, Secretary Perdue discussed issues such as trade and waterways that FLA has advocated for to USDA officials. FLA will closely examine language in the farm bill to gauge its impact on landowners and continue to provide guidance to the USDA on our concerns.
New Forest Service Chief
Secretary Perdue has tapped Tony Tooke to lead the U.S. Forest Service following the retirement of longtime Chief Tom Tidwell in September. Tooke, an Alabama native, is currently the regional forester for the Southern Region, bringing a great deal of experience with issues of concern to our landowners to his post. In his statement, Secretary Perdue said that Tooke will be tasked with overseeing “efforts to get our forests working again, to make them more productive, and to create more jobs.”