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Weekly News 5/21/12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weekly News 5.21.12

  • Legislative and Policy Activity
  1. SB 315 Mid Biennium Review (MBR). This Energy Bill will most likely get voted out of the House on Tuesday without any change to the definition of biomass as interest from a couple environmental groups indicated several weeks ago. At that time, there was talk of changing the state law to be particularly restrictive on what woody components would be eligible for Renewable Energy Credits (REC) under Ohio's renewable portfolio standards. The current bill will include numerous changes affecting oil and gas drilling in Ohio, as well as include allowance for captured heat from industrial cogeneration facilities to be included for RECs.
  2. Federal Definition for Biomass. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) recently urged the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to include a definition of biomass in clean energy legislation that promotes the use of biomass rather than discourages it. As is usual, the current energy legislation discourages woody biomass for inclusion as renewable energy products. You can read a news release from NAFO that explains the organization's position on biomass and taking it from private lands.
  3. State Money to Replace ALB-removed trees. As part of the Mid Biennium Review (MBR) bills in front of the legislature, recently the state has agreed to provide $1 million of additional funding to treat Asian Longhorned Beetle problems in Clermont County.
  4. Coalition to Protect Ohio's Parks. Four environmental groups, including the Ohio Environmental Council, the Mohican Advocates, Ohio Sierra Club, and the Buckeye Forest Council, announced last week that they have formed a coalition to fight oil and gas drilling and harvesting on Ohio State Park properties. The coalition believes that the amount of public forest land per capita is low and as a result the property should be closed to drilling or forest management. You may recall that last year, the legislature gave ODNR the authority do resource extraction for minerals and timber on state parks. The Division of Forestry will have responsibility for setting up and overseeing harvest operations on state parks. The coalition believes the public has never been asked for its view on these activities, but instead the state has only consulted with industry reps on the proposals.
  • Last Chance for BWC Open Enrollment. May 25 at 5:30 PM is the last chance for open enrollment to select an MCO in Ohio's Worker Compensation Program. CareWorks Consultants, Inc. is the selected MCO for the OFA Group Safety Program and as such, OFA encourages members to select CareWorks as their MCO. The attached announcement indicates our support for CareWorks and the kind of service CareWorks provides. If you are already enrolled with CareWorks you do not have to do anything with the marketing communications being sent to you. If you are not enrolled and want to consider CareWorks, then you have until May 25 to choose. There will not be another open enrollment for 2 years.
  • Serious Logging Injury. It was reported last week that Floyd Book of Bulkwood Logging in Stout, Ohio suffered a severe leg injury in a tragic accident while adjusting brakes on a dump truck. Apparently, Floyd was still under the truck when it was started to activate the air brakes. Unfortunately the truck was in gear and it rolled over his legs. Both legs were severely injured with the possible loss of one of the legs. Please keep Floyd and his family in your thoughts and prayers. And please take all the necessary safety precautions during your work. Your families need you home and safe at the end of the day.
  • Notes from the Hardwood Leader. The following are notes from the Hardwood Leader, produced by Hardwood Publishing:
  1. Hardwood sawmill production has increased and will continue for the next several months, albeit at reasonable rates.
  2. The Leader observes that the hardwood industry is smaller and more nimble and more focused on profitability than production, allowing demand to dictate production levels.
  3. There is a growing global demand for timber and lumber exports may reach the 1.3 Billion BF level for the year.
  4. Indonesian exports reached a record 14.1 Million BF in 2011 and is expected to continue at a high level with furniture manufacturing shifting there from China.
  5. There is continuing demand for poplar both domestically and internationally, with continuing distribution yard sales and more use for molding and furniture.
  6. US Hardwood lumber exports for March 2012 hit 112 million BF, the second highest monthly amount in 5 years, with particular strength among poplar and white oak.
  7. One-year inflation levels for many items are exceeding the Federal Reserves target of 2.0%.
  8. February 2012 US residential furniture factory shipments were 17% higher than one year ago. Factory orders showed double digit gains for the 6th straight month
  9. 17% of American-made household furniture was exported in 2011, a record.
  10. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, a building confidence measure for single-family homes, was up in May after going down in April. The US Census Bureau survey of housing permits showed gains in the first quarter of 2012 of 2.3%.
  11. March 2012 single family homes sales went down 2.5% but still remained 5.6% above March 2011.
  12. 30-year fixed rate mortgages are at an all-time low, and a strong majority of analysts think they will go even lower in the next 30 days due to Europe economic woes.
  13. In the low grade market, according to the Leader, pallets demand is expected to rise due to a slowly strengthening economy. The on-fire tie market should stay strong for the foreseeable future. Prices however for ties and truck flooring will soften some. Pallet cant and cut-stock production will gradually increase while prices remain at or near current levels.
  • US Postal Service Reform. The US Postal Service has announced revised plans to deal with its budget deficit. Although the Senate has passed a bill dealing with USPS reform, the Postmaster General is working with stakeholders to come up with plans to address the severe budget shortfall. Original plans called for closing or consolidating of 3,700 rural post offices and stakeholders pushed back very hard on that plan. In response to that, the plan was revised to prevent closures but take other cost cutting measures. The attached one-page summary document outlines the plan. Key items include keeping offices open but with reduced window hours, provide mail delivery by rural carriers or highway contract routes, contract with local businesses to establish a Village Post Office, and merge with neighboring Post Offices that stay open 8 hours a day. The plan is yet to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
  • Call for Papers – 17th Biennial Southern Silvicultural Research Conference. James Haywood, Supervisory Research Forester for the USFS, Southern Research Station asked OFA to put a note in our weekly report about a call for papers for the Southern Silvicultural Research Conference to be held March 5-7, 2013 in Shreveport, LA. The announcement is attached to this report.
  • ATFS Webinar: Fix the Estate Tax to Keep the Forest in the Family. On June 27 from 2:00 – 3:00 PM, the American Tree Farm System is hosting a webinar to discuss the issue of estate taxes and the impact on family forests. The webinar will help participants understand how estate taxes affect family forest owners and it will explain how each person can work to lessen the burden on owners, particularly through Congressional actions. If you are interested in listening to the webinar, you can register here.
  • SBA International Trade Workshops. Attached is a listing of International Trade Workshops and Events in Ohio from late May through October. There is a variety of topics hosted throughout Ohio that may be of interest to some OFA members. Topics include information on Mexico, China, cyber security, and other international trade topics. Of particular note is an ACEnet International Market Training at Hocking College in Nelsonville on June 13 covering various topics on international trade. There is also information on the SBA International Market Access Grant for Exporters (IMAGE) that provides 50% reimbursement to exporters for costs associated with export trade, and an additional 15% reimbursement for exporters in the Appalachian region.
  • ECOFA June Newsletter. Attached is the June Newsletter of the East Central Ohio Forestry Association. The news letter has information on the annual banquet during more than $2,000 were raised from a live and silent auction with proceeds for forestry camp scholarships. The featured presentation was provided by Laura Schmucki, a past attendee at the forestry camp. There is also information about invasive pests, Wayne and Benita Lashbrook, Ohio's 2012 Tree Farmers of the Year, and other coming events.
  • Member Visits. I had the chance to make several visits last week. I visited Clarskville Stave and Veneer Co, Inc. in Waverly and had a great tour of a very neat operation, Glatfelter merchandising yard with Ron Alsip, OSU South Centers and Dr. Tom Snyder, Mid Ohio Wood Products, Inc. with Jay Parkinson, and RockTenn with Clint Manns. I also had the chance to spend a long visit with Steve Brown to see how he is progressing from his unfortunate accident. Steve is doing very well and slowly getting better. He is walking with the aid of a back brace and going through regular therapy working at regaining his strength from an extended period of being down. Steve is in good spirits, especially for his circumstance, and shows a strong will to get back to where he was.

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