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House Agriculture Panel to Sop in Va

From the Richmond Times Dispatch
Friday, July 14, 2006

(courtesy of Virginia Forest Watch)

Lumberman Thomas Sheets will extol the benefits of exports when the House
Agriculture Committee visits Staunton on Monday for a hearing on federal
farm policy.

Sheets, president of Blue Ridge Lumber Co. LLC in Fishersville, runs a
business that derives roughly half of its $32 million in annual sales of
hardwood lumber from exports.

He will tell the visiting congressmen that the lumber industry doesn’t need
any federal subsidies except for the continued support of the American
Hardwood Export Council, which promotes U. S. lumber overseas.

The House committee, led by Virginia Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, is
holding a series of hearings around the country on federal agricultural
policy in preparation for the writing of a new federal farm bill. Besides
timber and lumber, a wide variety of farm commodity producers from poultry
to peanuts and apples to wine are expected at the hearing.

Besides emphasizing the value of the export council, whose work he
appreciated on a recent trade trip to India, Sheets said he will caution
lawmakers not to let the government’s enthusiasm for homeland security get
in the way of trade-related transfers of money between countries.

Although he cuts 95 percent of his timber on private land, Sheets said he
will tell lawmakers about the need to manage the national forests for timber
production as well as other uses and about the importance a low
capital-gains tax rate has in insuring a ready supply of private timber to
the market.

Nearly two-thirds of Virginia, or 16 million acres, is covered by forests.
Families and individuals own 77 percent of that forestland, the forest
industry 10 percent and state and federal government the remaining 13
percent. Since 1992, according to a coalition of organizations interested in
forestry issues, Virginia has lost 615,000 forest acres, predominantly to
urban development.

Richmond lawyer John Burke, who manages a family tree farm in Caroline
County, says his hope is that Congress will retain provisions that encourage
land owners to replant trees on their land.

Because trees are an investment that takes decades to pay off and only then
after surviving the threat of fires, drought, flood, hurricanes, insect
infestation and ice storms, it helps to have some federal assistance to
encourage reforestation, Burke said.

Contact staff writer Greg Edwards at gedwards@timesdispatch.com or (804)
649-6390.

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