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Weekly News 12.3.12

Posted By John Dorka, Monday, December 03, 2012
Ohio Forestry Association

Weekly News 12.3.12
In this issue:

  • Ohio Legislative and Policy Activity- Here are a few of the active legislative issues that you may be interested in with possible action taken this past week:
    1. House and Senate committees are considering changing requirements for the establishment of Mayor’s Courts. In separate House and Senate versions, both chambers are considering changing minimum population requirements for a municipality to have a mayor’s court. The Senate is looking at a change of more than 100 people to more than 200 people. The House version is more dramatic with a change from more than 100 people to more than 1000.
    2. The House Ways and Means Committee is set to have its first hearing on HB 601 which would overhaul laws governing income taxes established by communities. The bill is intended to establish more uniformity among municipalities on income taxes for individuals and businesses.
    3. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is looking at 6 bills pertaining to oil and gas removal. Among them are bills to establish more requirements governing oil and gas drilling wells in the Marcellus shale formation (HB 493), to require oil and gas lessees to provide the lessor monthly production statements (HB 528), to allow local governments to enact health and safety standards for drilling (HB 537), to change requirements for oil and gas permits (HB 596), and to authorize a fee on the recycling of brine from drilling operations (HB 500).
    4. Last week, the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board, a 25-member board composed of lawmakers and business leaders from across Ohio, met for its inaugural meeting to discuss goals. The primary purpose of the board is to review the state’s workforce development system and develop recommendations to make it more efficient and effective. Their 3 goals include forecasting the "skills” potential employers will be looking for in new hires, streamlining how the state delivers workforce programs, and determining how the state will measure the performance of the system.
    5. Sen. Keith Faber (R-Celina) was elected President of the Senate, replacing Sen. Tom Niehuas (R-New Richmond) who is term limited and leaving the legislature.
    6. The House leadership team remained the same following caucus meetings this past week, as Rep. William Betchelder (R-Medina) remained the Speaker of the House. The status quo remained the same in the Democratic Caucus leadership team.
    7. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Workers Compensation claimants found eligible for benefits are entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and court costs no matter how many of their claims were approved. The court ruled that state law allows for successful WC claimants to be reimbursed for the cost of any legal proceedings. In the case heard, the employer of the claimant was found responsible for thousands of dollars in employee court fees and costs.
    8. Governor Kasich is still pushing for an increase in an oil and gas severance tax and told members of the Farm Bureau last week that he will continue pushing this agenda in spite of resistance from the industry. The governor’s proposal calls for a reduction in income taxes for Ohio residents in exchange for the increased severance tax revenues.
    9. Ohio House 21st Century Manufacturing Task Force held a hearing on Workers Compensation issues this past week. A number of suggestions were received including requiring claimants to show new and/or changed circumstances when filing for disability benefits more than once and allowing employers to pay compensation and medical bills without losing the right to context a claim. During the hearing, BWC Director Buehrer said that BWC has made many improvements in lowering costs and increasing efficiencies, but a number of troubling trends continue. Ohio’s average indemnity and medical cost per claim is rising at a much faster rate than other states. In addition the time period over which Ohio pays claims costs is among the longest in the country, which is 8 years after the date of injury.
    10. In other BWC news, the BWC Board of Directors approved expanded workplace safety options for employers in Group Experience and Group Retrospective Rating Programs. Under the new options, employers who have had a workplace injury can satisfy some safety training requirements by completing an on-line accident analysis and related on-line safety training, as opposed to taking a 2-hour safety training class.
  • Federal Policy Issues
    • Forest Roads NPDES Permitting - This issue will be heard by the US Supreme Court on December 3rd as oral arguments for NEDC vs. Decker will be made that day. At the same time, the US EPA has proposed a rule clarifying that logging is not an "industrial activity” and therefore does not require NPDES permits under stormwater rules. The final rule has already been sent to OMB. While all this has been going on, legislation has been drafted (Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act) that would permanently fix the issue, but there is little chance that it will move during the lame duck session of Congress.
    • Farm Bill - It appears likely that Congress will move a 1-year extension on the current Farm Bill during the lame duck session, although House and Senate committees are still working on passage of a new Farm Bill.
  • Hardwood Leader Notes - The following are notes from the most recent issue of The Hardwood Leader produced by Hardwood Publishing:
    1. As reported in many places, housing is showing signs of recovery and strength in sales and construction. Single family home sales were at the highest rates in 2 years and starts were the highest since 2008. The National Association of Home Builders now has a list of 125 improving markets, up from 30 this time in 2011. Forty percent of the US hardwood exports go to China.
    2. Hardwood export markets will be a lift for hardwood producers in 2013 and beyond that. Projected 2012 exports will be 1.34 billion BF, which should break the 2006 record.
    3. The hardwood market appears to be transitioning to a "sellers market” after 5 years of falling demand and excess production.
    4. Lumber supplies will continue to tighten if demand continues strong and timber costs continue to rise. Mills should start to catch up in the second quarter of 2013.
    5. In the Appalachian region, Soft Maple, Ash, Red oak, and Poplar will remain hot sellers. Improvement in White oak should soon follow. High grad walnut and cherry will be down for a while, as well as Hard maple.
    6. US residential furniture factory shipments were $1.79 billion in August, up 6% from August, 2011. Furniture sales remain strongest in the least expensive product categories and will remain that way until middle class consumers are more confident of the economy.
    7. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that tighter credit standards which were implemented following the subprime mortgage market collapse, have now swung too far and have slowed the housing and economic recovery. Meanwhile, mortgage rates continued declining to record lows.
    8. US manufacturing employment rose in October and is 1.69% higher than a year ago at this time. However, employment in wood products manufacturing has slightly declined.
  • Ohio Home Sales Hit October Record - According to the Ohio Association of Realtors, for the 16th month in a row, Ohio home sales showed a gain from the previous month in October. Sales in that month were 23.1% more than October in 2011. Average sale prices increase 8% from the same time last year.
  • OSU Extension Economic Impact Study – Ohio Forest Economy - Recently, Dr. Eric McConnell, Forest Operations and Products Specialist for OSU Extension completed an economic impact study of Ohio’s forest products industry. A copy of that study can be found here.It can also be found on-line here. Using census data and other inventories and databases, Dr. McConnell came up with some amazing information about Ohio’s forest products industry and the forests that support them. For a quick look at the data, take a look at the highlights on the first page. Based on 2010 data, Ohio’s forest products industry contributed $22.05 billion to Ohio’s economy with total employment of 118,000 jobs and a payroll of $5.69 billion. The study breaks the information down by various forest product sectors as well as by direct, indirect, and induced employment. The report is well worth your time to review.
  • Managing Woody Biomass: The Past Century in Review - This is a good article written by a forester with Forest Investment Associates that talks about the abundance of the US forest and timber resources over the last century. Its focus is on woody biomass availability for energy use, but it profiles the forest resources and wood availability for the industry in general. The article has a southern perspective but is applicable for all regions. It relates that there is plenty of woody fiber available for general industry markets and the wood supply continues to grow and expand. It further relates on what happened to a burgeoning biomass market that appeared ready to expand just a few years ago.
  • Study on the Life Cycle Assessment of Treated Wood Pilings- The Treated Wood Council (TWC) just released the Conclusions and Summary Report: Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Marine Pilings. The 4 major conclusions are that treated wood pilings, compared to concrete, galvanized steel, or plastic use less energy and water, have lower environmental impacts, and produce lower greenhouse gases to produce. In addition, appropriate reuse of pilings for energy offset fossil fuels. A copy of the findings can be found here.
  • The LEED Standards Battle on Wood Continues - The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) reports that as the USGBC’s LEED program is about to finish its fifth Comment Period, many questions are being about the LEED rating season, particularly in reference to its exclusionary position on forest certification programs. Here is a web page from the Washington Forest Protection Association that links a number of articles and papers that are critical of LEED, including an article from the USA Today, comments from the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, the Oregon Small Business Association comments, and the survey from Turner Construction Association.
  • Coalition for Fair Trade of Hardwood Plywood (CFTHP) Files Unfair Trade Petition Against China - In late September, the CFTHP filed an unfair trade petition with the US Department of Commerce and the US International Trade Commission against China for allegedly selling hardwood plywood on the US market at "dumped prices” and as a result, Chinese manufacturers have gained an unfair advantage. The petition is asking that the issue be investigated and that duties be applied to the imports to restore parity in the market. Over the last several years, the market share of Chinese hardwood plywood has grown to 50% in the US. The petition is expected to be heard with a preliminary ruling in the spring of 2013 and final ruling in the fall of 2013 with imposition of a duty if warranted.
  • OFA Electric Services Program - A number of our manufacturing members should have received information on the Energy Services Group Program that OFA is offering in cooperation with Riverside Energy. Here is a brochure on the services and benefits to you. Sherri Loscko is the President of Riverside Energy and has been contacting a number of our members to let them know that she may be able to assist you with saving money on electricity rates. If you haven’t heard from Sherri, don’t hesitate to give her a call to see what she can offer. There is no cost to you or obligation to sign up through her services, even if she offers a quote and analysis of your electric accounts.
  • Log A Load for Kids Chainsaw Winner at Paul Bunyan Show - Larry Strickland correctly guessed the volume of wood in logs at the Log A Load for Kids raffle at the Paul Bunyan Show. Larry won a Dolmar PS351 chainsaw donated by Central Power Systems for the event. Here is a picture of Larry receiving the chainsaw from Bibb Tracy, Central Power Systems Territory Sales Manager in Eastern Kentucky. A 50/50 drawing of the prize money was also part of the Larry’s prize. Larry elected to donate his 50% share back to Log A Load for Kids.
  • SOFA December Newsletter- The Southern Ohio Forestland Association December 2012 Newsletter has information on the last general meeting which featured an "Open Mic Night” for members to talk about their special experiences as forest landowners, an article on American Chestnut, information on invasive plants and fish that threaten the Great Lakes region, and a list of upcoming events and seminars including the annual gathering at the Lake White Club. The newsletter can be found here.

Ohio Forestry Association is managed by Offinger Management Company, a member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), "Charter-Accredited" Association Management Company member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and a member of the Association Management Company Institute (AMC Institute).

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