The bill to lengthen federal grazing permits could benefit her husband, she said. Her husband feeds a dozen or so cattle on federal lands that adjoin one of their ranches, she said. However, she said, that operation is "inconsequential" compared with the 500 to 1,500 cattle sent to market annually from the family's main ranch 90 miles away.
"There are so many more ranchers that I represent that have substantial [federal] leases that are integral and important to the financial viability of their operations," she said. Not pushing for longer leases, she said, "would be unfair to the people I represent."
In Alabama, timber production is one of the state's largest industries, and timberland is one of Sen. Jeff Sessions's larger assets. Efforts by Sessions, R-Ala., to reform outdated timber tax laws have been to help the state's economy and U.S. industry in general, a spokesman said.
In 1999, Sessions sponsored the Timber Tax Simplification Act, a proposed law to revamp how the federal government taxes timber sales. The tax bill finally passed in 2004 as a Senate floor amendment to the American Jobs Creation Act.
"This modest change in the law will allow timber owners to get more timber to the mill without paying unnecessarily high tax rates on their harvest," Sessions said then in a news release.
Sessions at the time owned 40 acres of timberland in western Alabama worth between $50,000 and $100,000. In 2009, he inherited from his mother and aunt 1,100 acres of timberland valued at the time between $1 million and $5 million. Last year, he reported earning between $115,000 and $1,050,000 from the sale of timber.
From 2005 through 2009, Sessions sponsored or co-sponsored three other bills promoting tax reforms generally related to timber.
Sessions, through his communications director, Stephen Miller, declined a request for an interview. But Miller said in a statement that timber is critical to Session's constituents and the senator's support to reform the tax code is in line with his broader goals to promote domestic industry and jobs nationwide. His efforts have had bipartisan support and were necessary for timber states, including Alabama, because of changes in forestry management, Miller said. He said the family timber holdings had no bearing on the senator's actions.