Congress reconvened on Sept. 6 following a seven-week summer recess, and the House and Senate are set to be in session for the rest of the month until pre-election. The majority of legislative action will be deferred until the post-election “lame duck” session in November and December.
The Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) supports the following action as it relates to proposed legislation in Congress and federal issues impacting Georgia’s $29 billion forest products industry.
Action Needed: H2-B Returning Guestworker Exemption
The U.S. Labor Department’s H-2B Visa program annually authorizes the temporary entry of seasonal foreign guestworkers to assist in various aspects of agriculture and forestry, including hand-planting of hardwood and softwood tree seedlings. To review a full background on the H-2B issue, please click here. To review the Forest Resource Association’s Q&A on Reforestation Contracting, please click here.
Both U.S. House and U.S. Senate are moving quickly to resume work on appropriations legislation, which is highly important to those who depend on migrant labor through the H2-B visa program.
It is very important that GFA members contact their Congressmen quickly to extend this year’s H-2B Returning Worker Exemption for the 2017 Appropriations Bill. Under this exemption, returning H-2B workers who have legally entered the U.S. under the normal quotas at any time over the past three years will be excluded from the 66,000-worker annual cap.
We’ve made it easy to take action. Simply click the button below, enter your voting address, review (and revise, if you wish) the pre-drafted letter template provided, and send it to your members of the U.S. House and Senate.
[button href=”https://gfagrow.org/advocacy/legislative-action-center/take-action/h2-b/”]Send a Letter[/button]
Action Needed: Estate and Gift Taxes
In August, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced proposed changes to federal estate tax regulations that could potentially prohibit the use of any type of discounts that are customarily applied in valuing family owned businesses—and fractional interests in these businesses. If this regulation is adopted in its current form, estate tax payments would be based on values that far exceed values that would be used if the assets were actually sold. In effect, the new rules would set up a tax on value that does not exist, resulting in a sizable increase in estate and gift tax payments on estates worth more than $5.45 million. Click here to view the official changes in the proposed rule.
The Department of the Treasury is currently taking comments on the proposed rule, and a public hearing is scheduled Dec. 1 in Washington D.C. The Family Business and Estate Tax Coalition (FBETC) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) are coordinating a multi-industry letter to the Treasury Department regarding the proposed regulations. The letter is open to all family-owned businesses/corporations; business, industry and trade associations; state and local chambers of commerce and allied organizations. GFA members who own family businesses are encouraged to sign on to the letter before Monday, September, 26, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
To take action, simply click the button below, fill in your contact information in the fields provided and click “submit”.
[button href=”http://namissvr.nam.org/minisites/securesignup/letter.aspx?ID=113″]Sign on to the Letter[/button]
Action Needed: Canadian Lumber Negotiations
On Oct. 12, 2015, the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between Canada and the U.S. expired. The agreement was intended to reduce the competitive imbalances caused by the Canadian government’s policy to subsidize the country’s timber.
In partnership with the U.S. Lumber Coalition, GFA secured the support of both Georgia Senators (Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue) in July to encourage the US Trade Representative to reach a negotiated settlement.
Now the House of Representatives is taking action as Rep. DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) are co-sponsoring a letter from Members of the House of Representatives to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman to both applaud and encourage his efforts to negotiate a strong Softwood Lumber Agreement with Canada.
GFA members are encouraged to contact their House member and ask that they sign on to the bipartisan House letter. A strong show of support by the United States House of Representatives will be important for USTR Froman and his entire team as they work towards negotiating the best possible deal for the domestic industry.
We’ve made it easy to take action. Simply click the button below, enter your voting address, review (and revise, if you wish) the pre-drafted letter template provided, and send it to your House and Senate members.
[button href=”https://gfagrow.org/advocacy/legislative-action-center/take-action/softwood-lumber-agreement/”]Send a Letter[/button]
Carbon Benefits of Forest Biomass
GFA supports federal policies that recognize the full carbon benefits of forest bioenergy. The EPA’s treatment of biomass is holding back potential investments in biomass to energy projects. Read more from the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) → .
GFA supports biomass carbon neutrality language within the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012) and the Senate Interior Appropriations bill. These provisions direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a consistent policy recognizing the carbon benefits of forest biomass.
Federal Forest Management Reform
According to Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a non-profit organization, between 60-80 million acres of national forest lands are in need of management due to poor forest health associated with insects, disease, and the build-up of hazardous fuels. In addition, last year over 10 million acres burned, costing American taxpayers $1.7 billion in wildfire suppression costs. On July 9, 2015, the House approved the bipartisan Resilient Federal Forests Act (HR 2647), sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), in order to increase timber harvests and reduce the chance of fires in federally-owned forests.
On Sept. 13, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee passed an amended version of Rep. Westerman’s legislation and changed the bill title to the Emergency Wildfire and Forest Management Act of 2016 (S 3085). GFA supports the legislation, which helps address the dual issues of wildfire suppression funding and the need for accelerating management of federally-owned forest lands. In addition, the revised version of the bill contains language that authorizes the sale of tracts within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia.
Managed forestland in the Southern U.S. serves as a dynamic and sustainable habitat for many species. The 600,000+ forest landowners who are responsible for 22 million acres of private forests across Georgia should be viewed as partners who can deliver solutions to the challenges of species conservation.
The Southeast Region is currently faced with evaluating whether to list and place under Federal protection more than 400 at-risk species as a result of national, multi-district litigation and a mega-petition brought by several environmental NGO’s, most notably the Center for Biological Diversity. GFA opposes mega-petitions, because the approach does not bring sustainable, science-based solutions to the challenge of species conservation.
- On August 10, fifteen states, including Georgia, joined together to asked the Federal Appeals Court to reconsider a case which designated a Louisiana landowner’s 1500-acre property as a “critical habitat” for the dusky gopher frog. Learn more from the Forest Landowner’s Association →
- Lauren Ward, a doctoral candidate at the Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, has released the preliminary results of a study focused on better understanding the attitudes private landowners have about endangered species and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This study will be critical to engaging on issues related to the ESA in the future. Click here to download the preliminary report →
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to revise petition regulations to provide clarity to the public and states as to what information would most inform the evaluation of proposed species. The regulations contain a number of provisions, including a proposal would limit an ESA petition to a single species rather than a mega-petition. To learn more, visit www.fws.org →