Incumbents and Challengers Answer OurQuestions About Forestry
By John Casey
Georgia is the #1 forestry state in the nation. We lead all other states in the planting and harvesting of trees for conversion to sustainable and renewable products that we use every day, while growing 48% more trees than we harvest. Our forestry sector in Georgia is unique — cleaning our air and water resources, providing wildlife habitat and driving an economic engine that supports more than 140,000 jobs and $39 billion in economic activity. It’s imperative that our elected officials ensure that this vital industry continues to grow and thrive here in our state, so we asked all 14 candidates for state-level offices and our two U.S. Senate candidates about the importance of forestry and how they plan to help. See the following for the responses we received.
RAPHAEL WARNOCK Democrat for U.S. Senate (Incumbent) As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I understand the importance of the forestry sector to Georgia and our nation. The forestry industry is central to Georgia’s economy and environment, supporting critical jobs in rural communities, and preserving wildlife habitats and the climate across the state. During my first year in office, I partnered with Senator Bill Cassidy to introduce the Disaster Reforestation Act to help forest landowners recover after natural disasters. The bipartisan legislation will ensure our forest landowners have the tools they need to recover when natural disasters strike. I will continue to advocate for the forestry sector and will push for investments in infrastructure to combat climate change.
HERSCHEL WALKER Republican for U.S. Senate With Georgia’s #1 industry being agriculture, it is critical to work on behalf of Georgia’s forestry in the Senate. It is not only important to the agricultural community and environment at large, but it’s important for our economy. Right now, we have a Senator who votes over 96% of the time with President Biden and has caused prices and inflation to skyrocket. I’ve seen firsthand how this [affects] the farmers and foresters in this great state and I will work to protect them and this critical industry. One of the first moves I will make is loosening the power of the federal government at large and [working] to reduce overly burdensome EPA regulations.
BRIAN KEMP Republican for Governor (Incumbent) With more than 22 million acres of private forests across Georgia, the forestry industry is vital to the economy of our state. Forestry supports more than 140,000 jobs across our great state, and it is critical that state leaders continue to enact policies and safe guard an environment where the industry can continue to grow and thrive here. Georgia is known as a leader in forestry; and as a timber owner, proud member of the Georgia Forestry Association and Georgia’s 83rd Governor, I am determined to help keep it that way.
Over the past four years, my administration has taken action to put the priorities of this association at the forefront of my legislative agenda.I’m proud to have signed numerous pieces of legislation into law that will help the forestry sector grow and prosper for years to come, including bills that helped advance mass timber construction, addressed outdated laws on timberland transactions, improved qualified timberland property rules and established a sustainable development carbon registry. We have also faced unprecedented challenges that affected our supply chain and threatened the industry. We know people in our state, across the country and around the world depend on Georgia forestry; so in the midst of a global pandemic and other challenges, I took action through executive powers to ease supply chain constraints and ensure the industry could continue to operate with a sense of normalcy. Georgia’s forestry industry is invaluable. If I am honored to serve a second term as Georgia’s governor, I will continue to fight for pro-business and pro-forestry policies that keep the industry strong, and I will work alongside state, local and private sector leaders to ensure the best days for Georgia forestry lie ahead.
STACEY ABRAMS Democrat for Governor When responsibly managed, working forests help provide a sustainable energy alternative to fossil fuels. We must build and preserve an environment in our state that recognizes how vital clean air and water are to our lives and our economy, that anticipates the increase in extreme weather events and its effect on Georgia families, and that leads in the transition to renewable energy while creating jobs and new industries.With an overall annual economic impact of $39.1 billion in 2020 alone, working forests also play a significant role in powering Georgia’s economy and our workforce. My environmental action plan will generate significant job growth through advanced energy generation, innovative technologies and energy efficiency efforts. Advanced energy jobs can be developed across the state of Georgia. Already, places likeMitchell County and Tybee Island have leveraged advanced energy to create new jobs and opportunities through solar, and Georgia’s successful timber and forestry industry has created a sustainable market for biomass. Hydro, wind, solar and biomass energy have economic impact across the state, and with collaboration and focus, these energy sources can become engines of prosperity for more Georgians.
BURT JONES Republican for Lieutenant Governor Without forests and the products they provide us, Georgians’ lives would not be the same. Conserving working forests is critically important not just to our overall economy, but to our way of life in Georgia. As a businessman and State Senator, I have seen first hand how significant of an impact our forestry industry has within agriculture as a whole— which has a $75 billion economic impact and is Georgia’s #1 industry. As a father of two young children, I also understand how important it is to protect and conserve our natural habitats and resources in Georgia, ensuring that Georgia’s forestry industry is sustainable and successful for generations to come.
Our forestry industry impacts so many aspects of everyday life, from people spending time in their home, to getting their packages, to writing and receiving letters or spending time in the woods. These necessities and pleasures would be nonexistent without working forests and their products — which is why protecting and advancing this industry is so important to our state’s success. Enriching our working forests is crucial to Georgia’s economy and preserving our way of life. In Georgia, we grow 48% more trees than we harvest and have over 22 million acres of commercially available private timberland. Georgia’s forests support more than 140,000 jobs and have a $39 billion economic impact. These jobs and investment are crucial to our economy and everyday Georgians’ lives.When it comes to our conservation efforts, it’s essential for us to adopt a forest first mentality. Georgia’s timber industry is thriving, and our goal should be to defer to industry experts on best practices to maintain and grow our conservation efforts. If elected Lieutenant Governor, I will work hand in hand with our forestry and timber industry experts and empower them to keep our #1 industry growing, thriving and prospering for generations to come.
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER Republican for Secretary of State (Incumbent) I believe healthy trees are a sign of a healthy environment. We’ve learned how to manage our forests as a renewable resource; in fact, wood could be considered our first renewable resource. Foresters have developed sustainable management practices, and we have more forest land now than we had 100 years ago. Despite the development of a wide array of synthetic building products, forest products continue to be unparalleled in their uses. From houses to multi-family construction up to five stories, wood is the preferred choice and the most economical choice. Forest products built this nation, and the forest products industry has adapted to handle the demand while providing the environmental stewardship necessary to remain a key component of our robust and growing economy. I believe we must be diligent in protecting the forest products industry from burdensome over-regulation. Wood is a renewable product, and the industry has shown it can adjust to new technologies and new data to maintain a healthy forest.The industry understands better than anyone else that each tree is an investment that will be harvested in the future to return a dividend to its shareholders. The forest products industry is also a major job creator. During timber’s growing phase, it is creating jobs for foresters through thinning and pest control and all the other ongoing aspects. Those are local jobs for Georgians. During harvesting, it provides jobs for specialists in timber harvesting. Then timber produces jobs in sawmills, pulp production, paper products and a host of other products, and each part of that process generates state GDP and jobs for Georgians. I’m proud of the work the Secretary of State’s office has done for all Georgia businesses, including the forest products industry. Our team licenses foresters, civil engineers, architects, surveyors and landscape architects, and we have a strong record of expeditiously handling the licensing process, ensuring these professionals are able to get to work without the government getting in their way. It is this type of pro-business attitude that has been at the heart of our licensing operation, and we will continue to look for ways to make these and other processes more efficient and helpful to the business community in a second term.
CHRIS CARR Republican for Attorney General (Incumbent) As I often say, as attorney general, my priority is the three Ls: to protect lives livelihoods and liberties. Our forests enrich our lives with their natural beauty, the recreation they provide and the contributions they make to a clean environment and our ecosystem. Our forestry industry boosts livelihoods and economic development by providing 140,000 Georgia jobs and $39 billion of economic impact to our state, as well as providing products essential to our everyday lives, from paper products to furniture to building supplies. I’m proud that Georgia ranks #1 nationally in annual harvesting and in forest product exports. Our forestry industry is both a good steward of our economy and of our land.Returning to the 3 Ls, I’ll continue over the next four years to protect livelihoods and liberties. As a former commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, I’m well aware of what it takes for our economy to thrive. I will protect our top-ranked business climate by fighting federal mandates from theBiden administration that violate our constitutional rights, from land use to healthcare decisions.Whereas many activist Democratic attorneys general use the power of their offices to prosecute job creators they don’t like, I will stand up for the rule of law and uphold the rights of companies to do business with minimal interference from government regulators and prosecutors. I will do the job without fear or favor to any person or industry, with the desire to create a business environment where all have the chance to prosper.
JEN JORDAN Democrat for Attorney General In Georgia, forestry is one of our most important and valuable industries, and I am committed to serving and protecting the men and women who keep it running. I grew up in rural Georgia, and I come from a family of farmers; I understand first hand the importance of the forestry industry and how manyGeorgians’ lives center on its success. I look forward to being an effective ally of the Georgia Forestry Association as your next Attorney General. In my time serving as a State Senator, I supported several policies that have advanced the forestry sector and contributed to its rapid development in recent years. For example, I was proud to support HB 897, which improved the logistical efficiency of harvesting operations around the state. As our next Attorney General, I will step into a new role where I can contribute to the growth of the forestry industry in different ways. First, I am committed to ensuring that Georgia’s environment and habitats remain hospitable for the forest industry. This includes enforcing appropriate environmental regulations and holding polluters accountable if they threaten the health of our forests. Additionally, I am committed to protecting the property rights of all Georgians. Over 90% of Georgia’s forested acres are privately owned, and the government and law enforcement must do their part to ensure that these lands are not exploited by those who do not own them.Georgia’s Attorney General plays an essential role in protecting the environment and the rights of all Georgians, and I look forward to being a strong partner to the Georgia Forestry Association.
TYLER HARPER Republican for Agriculture Commissioner As a seventh-generation farmer who has a timber production on my farm, I know firsthand how vitally important the forest industry is not just to agriculture as a whole, but the entire economic output of our state. As the #1 forestry state in the nation and one of the largest drivers of our state’s #1 industry, our forests and our timber operations supply so much of the fiber and shelter that Georgia, Americans and consumers across the globe rely on on a daily basis. The industry is also a huge economic driver for our state, supporting more than 140,000 jobs and generating nearly $40 billion in economic impact. As Agriculture Commissioner, we will prioritize our forestry industry every day through dialogue, partnership and collaboration to maximize and grow its impact even further across our state and across our country. My agenda as Agriculture Commissioner for the forestry industry will focus on working together toward sustainable growth. Knowing that our forests and timber operations are critical to our larger industry’s overall success, I’m committed to working together with the Georgia Forestry Association members and other industry partners to equip them with the tools they need to succeed and help them grow in a sustainable and smart way that benefits our farmers, producers and consumers across the state. Working together, we can help advance our state’s #1 industry for generations to come.
BRUCE THOMPSON Republican for Labor Commissioner Forests serve to clean the air we breathe, the water we drink while reducing erosion to our land. As the top forestry state in the nation, the industry generates over $36 billion and supports over 150,000 jobs. With over 200 wood mills producing lumber, pellets, furniture and so much more, the forestry industry is a significant provider to our state tax base as well a sour lifestyles.
As Labor Commissioner, I will ensure that the H-2A visas remain a priority for our state. I will make sure the policies that are implemented are supportive of this industry and a liaison is in place to assist with any needs the industry may have in regards to the DOL. It is my desire to transform the DOL from being a bureaucratic agency that [processes] UI claims into an agency that fosters a workforce necessary to meet the needs of the industry.
JOHN KING Republican for Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner (Incumbent) Forestry is a vital industry in Georgia —representing jobs, driving our economy and contributing to Georgia’s status as the #1 state to do business. In the year 2020, forestry provided over $39 billion in economic impact, with over 180,000 jobs. Each one of these statistics represents how this industry supports our families being able to put food on the table and create a better future for the next generation. Since Governor Kemp appointed me in 2019, one of my highest priorities has been to drive down the high cost of commercial insurance products, especially trucking insurance. The outrageous prices of some policies are making it extremely difficult for smaller timber farms to move their products to market. I have worked with our state legislature to remove barriers and protect trucking companies through common sense regulations that do not overburden the forestry industry.
Our agency is diligently working to bring new trucking insurance companies to the market, which will drive competition and help lower costs.Our team is currently working with a company to relocate their home office right here in Georgia, further expanding the options in our local market. In my second term, I will work with the insurance companies and create connectivity with the Georgia National Guard to provide safety credits on policies for recently retired military drivers to drive the large trucks. These men and women have served our country and are experts in safety. Through increased competition, safety improvements and potential tort reform, we can drive costs down to help grow the forestry sector and continue Georgia’s tradition of being the#1 state in the nation for forestry.
JANICE LAWS ROBINSON Democrat for Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner The benefits of working forests being a renewable source for things that we use daily, such as lumber, paper and energy provide a better consistent option than continuing to remove forests to create impervious surfaces. This is also important to me because of the additional benefits that the working forest provides, like filtering water and carbon emissions, which positively impacts our overall health. As the Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner, I will work directly with the State Forester of the Georgia Forestry Commission to ensure my office establishes or improves the mutual aid agreement for fire prevention and investigations, along with any other support that we are able to provide. My policies would also reflect a wildfire disaster recovery plan that will address insurance claims processing. Finally, my policy will propose to establish property-owner insurance incentive programs for forestry service personnel to acknowledge skills and ability to prevent property loss, as well as decrease financial burden with elevated insurance premiums. ■
John Casey is a strategic communications consultant with a primary focus on journalism, politics and public policy.
Georgia Forestry Magazine is published by HL Strategy, an integrated marketing and communications firm focused on our nation's biggest challenges and opportunities. Learn more at hlstrategy.com