The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that for the first time ever they will provide payments for loss of timber as a result of hurricanes in 2018. The recently announced Timber Block Grants have given rise to hope that in addition to reforestation and clean-up funds, landowners will receive cash for their loss of timber.  However, the process and formulas for determining how much and how funds will be distributed is still being worked out.  Landowners will need an extra dose of patience and should not expect reimbursement checks from Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) or timber grants any time soon. These Timber Block grants are the first time the federal government has approved payments to forest owners specifically for the loss of timber, recognizing landowners need more than just the aid to reforest their land as is covered by EFRP.

It is likely to take another 6 to 18 months for financial reimbursements to distributed. State forestry departments in conjunction with the state and county Farm Service Agency offices are working tirelessly to process the Emergency Forest Restoration Program applications, but the sheer number of applications coupled with a bureaucratic process is proving to be challenging.

FLA has been working on several fronts to streamline and ensure financial relief to landowners for their destroyed timber.

These efforts include:

  • Working at the federal, state and local levels of USDA and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to streamline the process for landowners to receive (EFRP) Emergency Forest Restoration Program funds.
  • Working with the state agricultural commissions and USDA Secretary Purdue for the first ever USDA Block Grants for Timber Recovery. Specifically, $370 million dollars to offset timber production losses from Hurricane Michael.
  • Seeking a permanent fix to the casualty loss provision to allow landowners to deduct the full Fair Market Value of timber loss from federal declared natural disasters. Currently, the deduction is generally $0.

FLA championed the Forest Recovery Act during the first half of the 116th Congress.  Significant inroads were made by FLA and congressional champion Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA1), along with the support of 35 state and national forestry associations who joined FLA’s coalition in support of FRA.  FLA will continue to advocate for the fix in the tax code to allow landowners to deduct the FMV of destroyed timber as a result of a federal declared natural disaster during the second half of the 116th Congress.