Bill Would Give Tax Break to Forest Owners

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U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced legislation to help America’s landowners recover from the loss of timber after natural disasters.

The Disaster Reforestation Act amends and makes improvements to the tax code to allow forest owners to deduct the value of their timber prior to the loss caused by a natural disaster.

Previous disaster relief policies and programs provide much needed relief for agriculture crops and farmers. However, they do not provide any economic relief for landowners whose timber crops were destroyed.

The Disaster Reforestation Act allows landowners to deduct the full value of timber destroyed during disaster events in the same way the tax code treats other crops.

In the case of the loss of uncut timber from fire, storm, other casualty, or theft, the basis used for determining the amount of the deduction may not be less than the excess of (1) the appraised value of the uncut timber determined immediately before the loss was sustained, over (2) the salvage value of the timber.

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“Natural Disasters like Hurricane Laura and Delta last year and Ida just this month, can quickly level timberland, leaving landowners with decades-worth of work lost in just a few moments,” said Roy Martin III, CEO of Martin Sustainable Resources. “There is no insurance coverage in the vast majority of instances…If we want to ensure these forests are replanted and continue providing the jobs that managed forests support, we need to help forest landowners recover.”

The Disaster Reforestation Act “is the support landowners need,” added Martin. “This bill fixes a discrepancy in the tax code allowing timber growers to keep their working forests, working. We all need help recovering after these catastrophic events.” The legislation will help landowners repair and replant forests, he said.

“Forest landowners are unique in that they do not qualify for USDA crop insurance following natural disasters, and private insurance products are unavailable,” noted Scott Jones, CEO of the Forest Landowners Association. “For too long these landowners have been overlooked when it comes to simple ways to recover, like a small change in tax code, that allow them to claim their loss. “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.”

The legislation is supported by numerous state and national trade associations for forestry, forest owners, and the forest products industry.