Republican Proposal to Cut MN Sustainable Forest Incentive Act Shortsighted

Sen. Saxhaug SFIA cut statement:

Today, in the Senate Tax Committee, Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) presented and passed the new Republican leadership’s first attempt at solving the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit, in S.F. 82. The bill includes thoughtless changes to Minnesota’s Sustainable Forest Incentive Act.

The changes will greatly reduce the payment landowners would receive under the program. Current law projects a $16.00 per acre payment to SFIA participants while Sen. Robling’s bill, S.F. 82, cuts all future payments to a flat $7.75 per acre regardless of land value. This bill greatly affects the large landholders, by imposing a $100,000 payment cap, but more importantly hurts the smaller private forest land owners by reducing the payment per acre from $15.67 to $7.75.

The SFIA was created to provide an incentive for landowners to practice long-term sustainable forest management. Without taking into account the market value of the land, participation in the program is sure to drop.

We all know that cuts need to be made, but these seem to be disproportionate. Having the bill pick the forest sector before we have a clear picture of all cuts that need to be made puts more pressure on the forest products industry at a time when it is just starting to rebound from the recession.

This move by Republicans is counterproductive to years of work that has been done to help promote healthy, sustainable, multi-use forests in a public-private partnership. Consequently, timberland that would have been set aside and protected could now be subject to fragmentation and parcelization.

I hope this part of SF 82 can be revisited. It’s the wrong direction to move and will have a negative effect on the wood products industry, the 4th largest industry in our state.

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Senator Tom Saxhaug
Tom Saxhaug represents District 5, which includes portions of Beltrami, Cass, Hubbard, and Itasca counties in the northern part of the state. He is a retired insurance agent. Sen. Saxhaug chairs the State Departments and Veterans Budget Division.

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