Georgia Farm Bureau supports Amendment 3
The benefits of viable forest lands are well documented. They convert sunlight into oxygen, sequester atmospheric carbon and provide wildlife habitat and a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Georgia’s forests also make significant contributions to the state’s economy. According to the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA), Georgia has the most commercially available timberland (22 million acres) of any state, is the top-ranking state in timber harvest volume, is the No. 1 state in exports of pulp, paper and paperboard mill products and the No. 1 exporter of wood-based fuel.
Forestry and related businesses contribute 144,000 jobs and more than $35 billion in economic impact, according to a 2016 Georgia Forestry Commission report. In addition, a 2011 UGA study found that Georgians receive $37 billion annually in ecological benefits – things like water filtration, carbon storage, wildlife habitat and aesthetics.
“Our state’s forests benefit virtually every citizen of the state in one form or another,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long. “We believe farmers are the first and best stewards of the land in our state, and forestland and its owners are key components of that.”
Despite all that bounty, the way the state’s privately-owned forestland is taxed puts those landowners at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states. Forests cover two thirds of Georgia’s land area, and 90 percent of that forestland is owned by private, non-industrial landowners.
Georgia’s property tax per acre of timberland is three times the average of Southeastern states, according to the GFA, because tax assessments on timberland vary significantly from county to county. Property taxes are due annually, while forests can take from 25 to 40 years to reach marketability, so if the taxes on forestland are too high, it serves to discourage individuals from conserving forestland as a part of the timber industry.
To counter the tax disadvantage, Georgia Farm Bureau supports Amendment 3, which would amend the state constitution to create a new class of land to be assessed at fair market value as determined by the Georgia Department of Revenue, setting one statewide assessment standard rather than 159 separate county assessments.
In addition, not all forestland owners qualify for the Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) or the benefits of the Forest Land Protection Act. Amendment 3 would allow another avenue to ease forest landowners’ tax burden.
“We’ve been very successful in expanding the state’s forests, and GFB believes passing Amendment 3 would help continue that success,” Long said.
For more information about Amendment 3, visit www.fairforesttax.org.