FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2021
Sen. Warnock Emerges as Champion of Georgia’s Forest Landowners
WASHINGTON, DC – As the third anniversary of Hurricane Michael approaches, Georgia’s forest landowners are holding their breath hoping for a fix in the tax code to help them recover after a natural disaster. The solution is the Disaster Reforestation Act introduced today by Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
When a natural disaster strikes forest landowners face immense financial burdens, which is compounded at tax time when they find their ability to claim a casualty loss for destroyed timber is often zero dollars. The Disaster Reforestation Act fixes a shortcoming in the tax code by allowing landowners to deduct the full value of their timber destroyed during natural disaster events, such as Hurricane Michael.
“My family owns more than 1,100 acres of timberland south of Bainbridge, Georgia, that was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018,” said Tim Pirrung, a Georgia forest landowner. “Unfortunately, our forest will not recover in our lifetime and cleaning up the land after a natural disaster, conducting site prep, and then planting trees all take considerable resources.”
Unlike producers of other agricultural commodities, forest landowners operate on thin margins and decades-long timelines. Fixing the casualty loss issue would support continued investment in private forests and its ripple effects on rural economies and the environment.
“Forest landowners do not qualify for USDA Crop insurance following natural disasters, and private insurance products are unavailable,” said Forest Landowners Association (FLA) CEO Scott Jones “Forest landowners are not asking for a handout, just fair treatment when it comes to recovering after a natural disaster. The Disaster Reforestation Act fixes this inequality.”
Georgia’s private forests support $36 billion in economic activity, 148,000 jobs, contribute $978 million in tax revenue, provide safe drinking water for 1 million and oxygen for 220 million Georgians. With all these benefits it is in everyone’s best interest to help these landowners recover quickly.
“Natural disasters like Hurricane Michael and the wildfires of 2017 can quickly level timberland, leaving landowners with decades-worth of work lost in just a few moments,” said Joe Hopkins, President, Toledo Manufacturing Company in Folkston, GA. “If we want to ensure these forests are replanted and continue providing the jobs that many of us depend on, we need to help these landowners recover.”
Growing, harvesting, and replanting trees is in the national interest of America’s forests products supply chain, rural economies, and environment. With hurricane season underway and catastrophic natural disasters at an all-time high, forest landowners must have economic certainty and a way to recover after a casualty loss of their timber. The simple fix is to pass the Disaster Reforestation Act.
In addition to FLA, more than 35 other forestry and conservation organizations support fixing the tax treatment of timber casualty losses.