RV Industry Leaders Hit The Hill Tomorrow

Jun 6, 2023

The RV industry has grown significantly over the last several years, now contributing $140 billion per year to the US economy, employing over 678,000 Americans and generating over $13 billion in tax revenues. With this substantial economic impact in mind, representatives from every corner of the RV industry will be on Capitol Hill during RVs Move America Week to meet with members of Congress about legislation that will benefit not only all of the businesses involved in the outdoor industry, but all of the families and individuals who enjoy and utilize our country’s great outdoors.

“The RV industry is an integral part of the American economy,” said RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jason Rano. “We’re looking forward to explaining to Congress how vital legislation can enable us to play an even greater role in supporting rural communities, conserving state and federal parklands, and contributing to the physical and mental well-being of their constituents.”

Chief among the legislation for which our intrepid representatives will be advocating are America’s Outdoors Recreation Act, the Farm Bill, reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences and reform of Competitive Need Limitations, and the Travel Trailer and Camper Tax Parity Act.

America’s Outdoors Recreation Act

With 72 million Americans planning an RV trip this year, the demand for camping infrastructure is higher than ever. The 2020 Great American Outdoors Act was an important first step towards addressing longstanding maintenance backlogs negatively impacting public lands, including roads and campgrounds that RVers rely on every day. The 2023 America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (S.873) expands upon this by:

  • Providing technical and financial assistance to gateway community campgrounds;
  • Extending public land shoulder seasons;
  • Bringing much-needed broadband/Wi-Fi to front-country sites; and
  • Establishing pilot programs to create jobs and help strained federal land agencies sustainably reopen, operate, and modernize campgrounds across the country.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources unanimously approved this legislation in May. RV industry reps will be recruiting other members of the Senate to cosponsor and support its passage. On the House side, the Natural Resources Committee is considering several bills that are for inclusion in an outdoor recreation package that may be considered this year. Members will be urged to support this outdoor recreation package as it comes together. 

Farm Bill

Outdoor recreation in rural communities is a significant driver for economic development, growth, and resiliency across the country. Legislation to reauthorize federal agriculture programs every five years, known as the “Farm Bill,” provides an opportunity to help these communities respond to an increased demand for outdoor recreation through technical assistance and funding. Provisions within the Farm Bill can also ensure that the US Forest Service is accounting for outdoor recreation in their strategic planning. 

Our RV advocates will be asking Members to:

  • Use existing programs within the Rural Development Title to support sustainable, economy-stimulating outdoor recreation investments;
  • Incorporate opportunities to restore sustainable access to the outdoor recreation infrastructure; and
  • Include report language to develop a 10-year outdoor recreation strategy for national forests that include rural economic development of local communities.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)

The RV industry relies on GSP, the longest-running U.S. trade preference program, to import very thin plywood made exclusively from a tropical tree known as lauan from Indonesia, duty-free. Most RVs use this plywood. 

There is currently an 8% tariff on this product, which is costing the RV industry roughly $1.5 million per month – between $17 million and $19 million a year. Unfortunately, the program expired on December 31, 2020, and the industry is currently burdened by import duties while also facing issues related to inflation.

In recent history, the GSP has been renewed for a brief three years, including retroactive relief for the period lapsed. Retroactivity, while absolutely vital, in practice, shortens the brief three-year renewal periods, making each reauthorization shorter and leading to uncertainty for American businesses. 

The House and Senate both supported a longer GSP renewal term in 2022 – four years and six years, respectively. Our RV industry reps will be asking them to retroactively reauthorize the GSP program for a six-year or longer renewal term.

Competitive Need Limitations (CNL)

Competitive need limitations are built-in import ceilings under the GSP program that eliminate duty-free access to the U.S. market for products that exceed them, even if there is no domestic alternative or concerns that imports harm a U.S. industry. An import loses GSP eligibility when imports of a certain product from a certain country either account for 50% or more of the value of total US imports of that product or exceed a certain dollar value.

The 2023 value cap is $210 million, which increases by $5 million annually. But this limit hurts imports of products like lauan. The Competitive Need Limitations Update Act introduced last Congress would have increased the threshold to $500 million and allowed for the threshold to increase annually by 6.5%. It also would have granted the U.S. Trade Representative the authority to waive the threshold if the situation warrants. 

This Congress, the RV industry is seeking the introduction of an updated version of this Act that includes changes to the volume threshold, e.g., for products such as the Indonesian-grown lauan, for which there is no domestic alternative, the 50% volume limitation should not apply. RV industry reps will be asking members to support modernizing competitive need limitations by increasing the dollar threshold by a value that matches inflation and by removing the volume limitation for products that are only available in a limited geographic area.

Travel Trailer and Camper Tax Parity Act

While dealer inventory financing interest charges on motorhomes remains fully deductible, since 2017, towable RVs – that now constitute over 85% of the RVs on the market   have been limited to deductions of only 30% of interest expenses based on earnings before interest and tax. This RV motorhome/towable distinction is unfair and was not the Congressional intent behind changing the definition of “motor vehicle.”

Members of the House and Senate will be asked to support the Travel Trailer and Camper Tax Parity Act that has already been introduced in the House, ensuring that towable RVs are included in the floor plan interest financing deductibility provisions of the tax code and establishing language that would include all RVs in the definition of “motor vehicle.”

Our RV Champions

Finally, the RV industry representatives will be seeking to build a powerful congressional alliance by urging the Members with whom they meet to join the RV Caucus, co-chaired in the Senate by Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), and in the House, by Rep. Rudy Yakym (R-IN-2) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV-1). As RV Caucus members, they will provide critical support for and educate their congressional colleagues about future issues around tariffs, federal housing definitions, and campground modernization and expansion.