FORECON recently attended the annual Forest Landowners Association’s National Conference in Asheville, North Carolina where hundreds of participants from across the country gathered to understand and talk about the various issues and opportunities that are currently affecting forest landowners. Front and center in the discussion was the current political impact the new administration may have on the many issues that continually affect the ownership and management of private forestland and woodlots.
Despite the current boondoggle with all things related somehow to Russia, the consensus of the Association is that once Washington can focus on the business of governing, the basic policies of the Trump Administration, as stated in general, show an understanding that forestry and forest products are an important and oftentimes “primary economic driver to providing jobs and contributing to the funding of rural schools (and communities). It all starts in the woods, with the landowners who own the land and grow the trees.” (FLA CEO Scott Jones.)
Here is a brief overview of just several of the current topics of interest to forest landowners that the FLA and FORECON will keep focused on for our clients and all who have an interest in these issues:
The Trump Administration states that it intends to repeal the federal estate tax (aka the “death tax”) – which is a change that many forest landowners and the FLA have been advocating for years. In the opinion of many, it has been the reason that numerous forest assets have become subdivided and sold upon the death of their owners, mainly to pay the estate taxes due which in some cases were more than 50%. For years, groups like the FLA and other private property rights and taxpayer advocacy groups worked hard to help policymakers and several administrations understand the challenges that this tax created for families that owned forestland. The benefits provided to society by these family forests in the way of clean water, timber products, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat come at great expense to the owners of these forests, as they must pay property taxes and management costs to maintain these tracts on an annual basis. With taxes continuing to rise and, in some areas of the country, heavy regulatory pressures increasingly being put on forest operations, landowners have found it more and more difficult to keep their forestland intact. Pardon the expression, but oftentimes, the “death tax” was often the last nail in the coffin, as the only way the heirs could pay the required taxes was through the liquidation of an asset that may have taken decades to accumulate. Although still in its early stages, it seems as if there might be relief in sight, allowing families to keep their legacy forests intact.
Recognition of Forestry in Agriculture Executive Order
The Administration’s recent Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity which recognizes the contribution forests and forest landowners make to rural economies is a positive step forward in promoting the importance of forestry in general to the public. The order states that “a reliable, safe, and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply is critical to America’s national security, stability, and prosperity. It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture and protect rural communities where food, fiber, forestry, and many of our renewable fuels are cultivated.” To have the term “forestry” finally associated with the word “agriculture is a BIG, BIG deal going forward for the forestry community across the nation, as it helps tie our important sector in with its big brother and give it the attention it truly deserves.
Our next monthly issue will pick up on these and other topics in the political environment that impact forest and woodlot owners. These are obviously highly-charged political times and FORECON intends to stay diligent in its focus to best understand and consult with our clients on not only the biological environment that our forests reside in, but the social and political environments that we all must deal with as well.
FORECON’s continued involvement with associations like the Forest Landowners Association, the Association of Consulting Foresters of America, and the Society of American Foresters is part of our commitment to our clients to remain in touch with the issues that impact the forest community and the opportunities that they may benefit from.