Category Archives: Policy

Government and Industry Policy Discussion

November 15 board meeting highlights for cooperators

Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy

KWOA participated in a September 19th meeting with this organization which coordinates the distribution of funds received by the state as a result of the tobacco settlement. There appears to be an opportunity for KWOA to initiate innovative programs that would be expected to result in more Kentucky landowners actively managing their woodlands. These might include education and/or demonstration programs administrated by others.

Health Task Force

KWOA and others are in the process of gathering data to submit to the Farm Service Agency for approval of an application for assistance to woodland owners for Emerald Ash Borer losses. There is also renewed interest in the Health Care Task Force which KWOA was instrumental in establishing. A meeting to explore starting a new task force is scheduled for December 5 at the UK Extension.

Kentucky Farm Bureau

Sections of the policy book are being changed to better reflect the role of forestry in the organization. The Forestry Commodity Session at the KFB annual meeting will be held November 29. Forestry will be included in Harlan County educational programs. KFB is encouraging the formation of a new program called “Ag in the Mountains,” which will include forestry. Input on what might be included in these programs is welcome.

UK Forestry Extension

Segments from the extension’s fall weekly radio program “From the WoodsKY” [https://forestry.ca.uky.edu/fromthewoodsky] are archived for those who would like to listen to them.

Topics include Christmas trees, herpetology, Robinson Forest, bats, urban forest initiative, fall colors, martial eagles, black bears, green forests work, forest health and what is forestry?

 

 

The extension is also launching a webinar series – Getting to Know Your Woodlands: A Primer for Beginners. The 4-5 two hour webinars will be held at county extension offices and other meeting spaces. Topics will include the southern forest and your woodland, getting to know your woodlands, managing your woodlands, identifying and managing woodland threats and wildlife and woodlands. The webinars will run on Thursdays from 7-9P (EST) on February 21, February 28, March 7, March 7 and an option field tour or extra local session on March 21.

The extension has produced a new video of its student Kentucky Leadership Program which will be run at the KWOA annual meeting.

Kentucky Tree Farm System

The Kentucky Tree Farm White Oak Initiative will hold a December meeting at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. The American Tree Farm System’s national meeting will convene February 26-28, 2019 in Louisville.

Sustainability of White Oak Timber – an April 2017 conference – was specifically for the industries dependent upon white oak including forest industries, industries using white oak casks, and organizations and agencies associated with these industries. https://forestry.ca.uky.edu/white_oak

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service  Jared Calvert said the allocation for EQUIP has not been determined. Woody residue treatment for ash has been recommended for EQUIP funding at $700 per acre. White oak promotion, rare and declining habitat and prescribed burning are also factors in EQUIP rankings.

Timber Property Valuation

Jim Corum, a KWOA past president, updated the KWOA board at its November meeting on his fifteen-year effort to bring the tax valuation of Kentucky woodland properties in line with applicable legislation and case law. Don Miniard, ,Kentucky Farm Bureau indicated that at the KFB committee level  has agreed to support the idea of preferable tax treatment for certified woodlands. This proposal is scheduled to be presented to the KFB board of directors on December 1. It will not require new legislation and the intent is to meet with the Revenue Cabinet to present the idea.

For background on the timber property valuation issue see the Special Edition Fall 2012 and Special Property Tax Assessment (August 2013) KWOA newsletters. Those efforts include presentations, discussions, appeals and plaintiffs with the Kentucky Department of Revenue – 2011 and 2012, Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals – 2014, Kentucky Legislature and Harlan County Circuit Court – 2015.

Hearing before Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals – 2014

Corum challenged the assessment of the family tree farm on November 18, 2014 at the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals. The Appellant Brief challenges the Harlan County property valuation administrator’s agricultural use assessment of the Corum tree farm. The Harlan County PVA assessed the tree farm on the basis of pasture rents, not income from timber. According to the appellant, this results in two errors:  First, there is no rational relationship between the income generated by pasture land and the income generated by a tree farm. Second, pasture land yields an annual crop at a minimum whereas a tree farm operates on a 70-year cycle.

Therefore, instead of a pasture rent basis, cash rents from tree farms should be computed on the basis of a generally accepted forest industry standard measurement (the Faustmann method) which is used within the industry to value the annual growth of timber. The UK College of Agriculture has developed and published the average annual growth values of an acre of woodland based upon current market prices collected and published by the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

By the above method the tree farm’s annual growth would be multiplied by the current market price for such timber less the amount payable to the typical logger. The resulting cash rent amount (stumpage value) would be subjected to the same capitalization rate (9.2%) used for cropland and pastureland as well as a present value multiplier (.0021) to equalize the 70-year crop cycle of trees with the annual crop cycles of cropland and of pastureland.

Based on the above findings, the appellant brief requests rulings from the Board of Tax Appeals that assess the Corum property applying a timber-based process that yields an accurate agricultural use value.

Brief of Appellee, Harlan County Property Valuation Administrator, in response to the Corum appeal

Currently, forestland is classified as agricultural property. If the state provided a lower rate for forestland, it would have to also apply that lower rate to all agricultural property. The state cannot constitutionally mandate a particular valuation method. Application of the prevailing class cash rental is divided by rate of return to arrive at an assessment that is fair and “equally burdensome” to all farmers. The constitution mandates that all property shall be assessed for taxation at its fair market value. It also allows for the assessment of agricultural or horticultural land according to its value for agricultural or horticultural use. This value is based upon the income-producing capability and comparable sales of farmland purchased for farm purposes.

The brief also noted other “weaknesses” with the appellant’s argument including:

  • Assessment of properties based upon their income only is inappropriate.
  • Most tree farms conduct periodic harvests, not just one every 70 years.
  • Most woodland properties have saleable timber at the time of purchase.
  • Woodlands are used for agricultural purposes other than harvesting timber.

The appellee brief recommends that the Corums lobby the legislature to address the desire for timberland to be exempt or nearly exempt from ad valorem property taxation. It recommends denial of the appeal and sets a fair cash value for the subject property based on the above findings.

At the November board meeting Corum again referenced a 1984 Kentucky Supreme Court case Doland v. Land that concluded the current PVA method made no adjustments for the characteristics of individual farms and therefore did not result in an equal tax burden:

“The method employed by the Fayette County PVA in assessing agricultural lands did not achieve the result required by Section 172A of the Kentucky Constitution in that it did not result in an equal tax burden.”

“There is a violation of constitutional rights if the effective tax rate is not uniform and thereby results in an unequal tax burden. Any method of assessment which fails to follow the constitutional directions and accordingly does not produce an assessed value based on agricultural use of each individual parcel, violates the constitution.”

Corum’s on-going appeal regarding property assessment is based on a lack of constitutional appropriateness regarding the disparity in application of property assessment criteria. For example, as a percentage of net income, woodland owners pay 15.6 percent of net income compared to 3 percent for corn farmers. The current assessment has economic implications for landowners regarding forestland as an investment given the carrying cost of the tax burden.

EPA, USDA and DOE will encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution

In a letter to Congress EPA, USDA, and DOE will encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution.

Labeling wood burning as environmentally friendly is at odds with environmental groups and some scientists, who say that the process releases all of the carbon dioxide that the trees had previously removed from the atmosphere and may endanger forest biodiversity.

To read more….

Nature and humans, not forest management, blamed for California’s devastating wildfires

Despite President Donald Trump’s claims, fire scientists say nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel.

Read more for why scientists know that management isn’t to blame according to Associated Press  science writer Seth Borenstein.

 

2018 Farm Bill Update

Unfortunately Congress did not come to agreement or pass an extension on the Farm Bill; while legislators will continue working on the bill, a vote is unlikely until after the elections. Current contracts will not be affected for any of the programs; but, without new legislation, new enrollments will not be accepted for programs like Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP). The significant exception is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which was reauthorized in separate legislation earlier this year; so, new applications for EQIP could be successful.

A CASE OF TIMBER THEFT IN KENTUCKY

Editor note to timber theft article

Editor’s note:  The following article is submitted by KWOA member Ed Sheehan. Although the owners do not live on the property in western Kentucky where the timber theft occurred, they had a boundary survey on file and immediately gathered extensive documentation regarding the theft that expedited prosecution of the thief. However, an unexpected action on the defendant’s part may have extended the prosecution for quite some time. Updates on this situation will be added as they become available.

Further information on Timber Theft and Trespass is available from the Kentucky Division of Forestry:

http://forestry.ky.gov/LandownerServices/Pages/TimberTheftandTrespass.aspx

And the UK Forestry Extension:  http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/trespass_theft

 

My wife and I have owned 20+ acres in Kentucky since 2010. The property was surveyed in 2010 and was only partially fenced.  In January, 2018 we found a freshly cut area on the back side of the property.  Someone had stolen multiple trees and damaged several more.  The damage trail led all the way to a neighbor’s property and we could see a logging truck loaded with fresh timber.  Aha, caught red-handed!

I immediately contacted the Kentucky Division of Forestry who informed me they could not help me and suggested I call the county sheriff. I called the county sheriff and he told me to call the police department, which I did. The police officer informed me that it was a civil matter and I would have to hire lawyer.  So, no one would come out to file a report!

I then contacted two lawyers. The first lawyer said he was too busy and gave me the name of another lawyer.

I was determined to fight for my property and this is the process I followed.

In February 2018 I hired a surveyor, at a cost of $1,100.00, to survey the unfenced area of my property and stake it for fencing.

In March 2018 I hired a forestry consultant for an estimate of damages.  I was also given a restitution estimate of $10,332.00 and $450.00 for erosion control cost. The cost for the estimate, documentation and photos was $250.00.

I contacted the second lawyer and was told he charged 1/3 of the settlement and 1/3 of $10,332.00 was not worth his time.  So, I wasn’t getting any help anywhere!

When I compiled all my information concerning the timber theft, I visited the county attorney’s office and completed a COMPLAINT INFORMATION FORM. I presented the completed form and my folder of documentation to the county attorney. I was informed that they did not have much luck in winning these cases. So, it looked like another turn down!

Then she looked at my documentation.  I believe my thorough file (containing the property survey, loss and damage estimates, and photos of tree stumps, damaged trees, and trails of the loggers) helped to change her mind rather quickly as it only took about 15 to 20 minutes for them to decide to take action.

I was informed that the penalty of three times the value of the timber could not be applied in this situation or any damages to property because that would require a civil suit.  I was just relieved that the prosecutor was going to prosecute the thief and bring attention to the situation.  We were on our way!

When we went to court in June 2018, I was surprised to be informed before the hearing began that the defendant had agreed to reimburse me $3,000.00 (this was the cost of the stolen trees per the forestry consultant) per an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor.  The defendant agreed to this in order to keep from being charged with a felony and the money would be paid in three monthly payments. After to agreeing to the settlement, the Defendant paid $1,000.00 to me and then changed his mind and decided not to pay the remaining $2,000.00.  He has been indicted by the county prosecutor and we are awaiting a court date.

Things must change.

Timber theft is a big problem in Kentucky and counties do not have the resources to investigate these thefts.  I believe we landowners need a process to follow and I have some suggestions.

  • The police should be required to come out and complete a written report to the land owner. The officer does not need to know the value of the timber or be certain of the boundary lines. The report only needs to list the number of trees or the approximate acreage involved. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • The landowner can then contact a surveyor to confirm the boundary lines if the landowner needs an updated survey. The original or updated survey is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • The land owner could then hire a forestry consultant for an estimate of the stolen and damaged trees along with any damages to the property which will require seeding. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • Take photos of tree stumps, damaged trees, trails of the loggers and anything else that applies. This is to be included in the folder of documentation.
  • All documentation can then be turned over to the county prosecutor for necessary action.

I believe the most important part of this process is the police report. The police report states that a crime (theft and property damage) has occurred. This report should be added to state statistics concerning timber theft. This gives a more accurate representation of timber thefts occurring in the state. Without statistics, it is not recognized as a problem and no action will be taken. The landowner needs to work with the police department because this documentation is necessary when contacting the prosecutor.

Timber thieves must be held accountable and doing so will help to reduce the temptation of stealing others property. Landowners really need to work with county prosecutors to lessen timber thefts and reduce the financial burdens they must endure.

Gov. Bevin Makes Appointments to Kentucky Forestry Best Management Practice Board

Media Contact: Nicole Burton

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 1, 2018) – Gov. Matt Bevin has made the following appointments to Kentucky Boards and Commissions:

Jack Stickney, Christopher Scott and Jeffrey Stringer have been appointed to the Forestry Best Management Practices Board.

  • Jack Stickney, of Irvine, is a farmer and senior geologist for the Kentucky Rural Water Association. He will represent at-large woodland owners and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2022. Jack is a KWOA board member.
  • Christopher Scott, of Bowling Green, is a forest ranger technician with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. He will represent the Kentucky Division of Forestry and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2019.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stringer, of Lexington, is a professor at the University of Kentucky. He will represent the UK Department of Forestry and serve for a term expiring April 22, 2022.

The Forestry Best Management Practices Board updates Kentucky’s forest practice guidelines for water quality management and the Division of Forestry’s administrative regulations regarding timber harvesting operations.

Also serving on the board are Portia Brown, KWOA vice president, Harry Pelle and Lyndle Barnes, KWOA board members.

Legislative Alert: A NEW Challenge to Forest Health and State Focused Funding

A set of bipartisan bills introduced in the US House and Senate as Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health of 2018 which aim to “fix” the problem of proposed budgets from the US Forest Service that reduce funding to state based initiatives.

Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health Act of 2018

KWOA members are encouraged to contact federal legislators to request their support for the bills.

New Challenge to Forest Health

February board meeting highlights

KWOA’s Board of Directors considered a range of issues at its February 15th meeting. It is already on the go to support fair land assessments for sustainable working forests, federal disaster assistance for woodland owners, federal funding for state-based forest health programs and state funding for land conservation.

Portia Brown, Secretary, developed an “about KWOA and why you want to join” response to an inquiry to the website’s Contact Us page. That response is available for use by KWOA members in discussions with persons interested in KWOA. A website-friendly version is posted on the News and Forest Management Practices pages of the website.

KWOA is preparing correspondence to Representative Palumbo on timber shortage and “working farms.”  Rep. Palumbo introduced HB 576 that would require farm land assessments to provide evidence that the property is actively farmed. The KWOA letter notes that Kentucky’s forestland is not as productive as it could be while demand for forest products is growing. The correspondence includes KWOA’s position paper on Sustainable Forestry and Agriculture.

KFIA announced that Cliff Taylor, KWOA board member, has been selected as the 2017 Tree Farmer of the Year is. Herb Lloyd has been nominated as Regional Tree Farmer of the Year.

Emerald Ash Borer  Joe Ball observed that the federal government subsidizes cheap food. It is important for forest industry and woodland owners to help politicians see that federal subsidies for forestry supports a healthy environment.

UK’s Forestry Department has published a white paper on The Ash Disaster in Kentucky.

The board discussed seeking some form of disaster assistance for forestry including the non-insured crop assistance program and application of certified working farm criteria. The board has formed a committee to work on the issue.

Moments after its formation Portia Brown, Don Girton, Steve Perry and Joe Ball – begin work on the new committee’s objective of obtaining federal disaster assistance for woodlands damaged by invasives Photo by Henry Duncan

The UK Forestry Department has submitted a grant application for landscape level activities to secure the future of white oak in Kentucky. A companion piece to the grant application is a set of bipartisan bills introduced in the US House and Senate as Empowering State Forestry to Improve Forest Health of 2018 which aim to “fix” the problem of proposed budgets from the US Forest Service that reduce funding to state based initiatives. KWOA was encouraged to contact federal legislators to request their support for the bills.

Land Conservation: The Kentucky Conservation Committee has prepared a letter supporting state funding for the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund which has experienced significant cuts in the last state budget and is slated for continued reductions in current budget proposals (HB 200). KWOA members are encouraged to sign on to this initiative.