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Weekly News 4.8.13

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Ohio Forestry Association

Weekly News 4.8.13

In this issue:

  • Ohio Legislative News - The legislature was again recessed this past week but reconvenes this week for business. As a result, there is little legislative news to report. However, there are a couple points of interest:
  • In the last session, the legislature gave ODNR authority to explore for oil and gas on state park lands. Before it started, however, it had to create and Oil and Gas Leasing Commission which would assess and determine appropriate locations to drill on park lands. No commission has yet been appointed in nearly 2 years, and the oil and gas industry is asking questions about why the administration is taking so long. There are some speculating that opposition from environmental groups are slowing the process down, while others believe that the oil and gas industry opposition to the administration’s proposal to raise severance taxes is the cause for delay. Regardless of the reason, ODNR Director Zehringer, when asked about the status of the commission, repeated the Governor’s pledge that no drilling would take place on the surface of park lands.
  • On another note regarding the proposed increase in severance taxes, a recent poll by the Ohio Petroleum Council indicates that 3 in 4 Ohioans believe that increasing the severance tax could harm the state’s economy and could lead to higher fuel costs for consumers.
  • State tax revenues are coming in well ahead of projections. Projected year-end overage for the general fund is $1.9 billion, (9.7% above original projections).
  • The House is set to announce major budget revisions this week, which are expected to make the budget leaner and will affect funding for schools and Medicaid and will overhaul taxes. Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster), Chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, said that a substitute budget proposal is expected to be released Tuesday, April 9. On the tax front, the majority of the House likes the idea of cutting income taxes, but there is not much support for raising sales taxes on new services or for increasing severance taxes on oil and gas.

  • OFA Co-Signs Letter in Support of Continued Forest Land Tax Treatment - OFA has agreed to co-sign a letter to Congress from a coalition of state and national forestry organizations supporting the existing tax treatments of working forests across America. The House Ways and Means Committee will be drafting tax reform legislation by the end of the summer. To that end, Chairman David Camp (R-MI) formed working groups to review different parts of the tax code. The letter, which was initiated by the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO), is being sent to the Working Group on Debt, Equity, and Capital and to the Working Group on Manufacturing Tax Reform.
  • Ohio Rates a "C+” in Small Business Friendliness - The good news is that the environment for small businesses in Ohio has improved since last year. The bad news is that it could be a lot better. After getting a "D+” grade two years ago from a survey by the Kauffman Foundation and, Ohio earned a "C+” grade last year on its environment for small businesses. It rated best on its health and safety record with a "B+” grade. At the opposite end, its poorest grade of "C-" was for training and networking. Overall it trailed 21 states including Kentucky and Indiana. You can see the full report here.
  • Appeals Court Rules that the Department of Labor Has No Authority to Issue H-2B Rule - The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Court in Northern Florida has ruled that the US Department of Labor does not have the authority to issue regulations regarding the H-2B guest-worker program. This decision affects a 2011 Program Rule which would have imposed unworkable stipulations on employers using temporary guest-workers under the H-2B program. This was a very important ruling for many forestry tree planting contractors who use guest workers to complete reforestation projects. The DOL still has options for appeal on this case, but the ruling bodes well for the future of the program. You can read an article by the Federal Regulations Advisor on the issue.
  • USDA Announces School Funding "Take Backs” Due to Sequester Cuts - The USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently sent letters to Governors in states that receive payments for several programs, most notably the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act Program, that it demands the states return 5.1% of Title 1 and Title 3 funds were already distributed earlier this year. The 5.1% is the applicable sequester percentage. By and large these programs were created and funded as a payment to states in lieu of lost timber sale revenues when the US Forest Service drastically reduced its timber sale program over the last 2 decades. The USDA is stating that the states can return other monies it has already received, indicating that some of the monies given to forestry programs can be returned instead. The National Governors Association and some members of Congress are asking questions about whether the USDA has the authority to take this kind of action. Stay tuned on how this turns out.
  • US Hardwood Lumber Exports Hit Record - We recently passed along information from Hardwood Publishing on the latest Hardwood Leader report. But here is an article from the Woodworking Network about record hardwood lumber exports. Hardwood lumber exports in January, 2013 were 113 MMBF making it the best January on record. Demand for North American hardwoods continues strong as it expanded faster than supply. The article contains a graph with the list of countries of highest demand, topped by China and followed by Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, and Italy.
  • KiOR Makes First Shipment of Wood-based Diesel from Commercial-scale MS Plant - Some of you may have heard about this, but KiOR, Inc. has started production of diesel fuel made from wood chips at a formerly shut-down paper mill in Columbus, Mississippi. This is reportedly the first renewable hydrocarbon fuels manufactured in the US at commercial scales and derived solely from "non-food” feedstock to avoid competition with other agricultural crops. The plant produces both diesel and gasoline and the gasoline is the first-ever EPA-registered renewable cellulosic gasoline for sale in the US. This success of this undertaking may have significant impact on the large number of mothballed paper mills in the southern US.

  • Asian Longhorned Beetle Eradicated from Canada - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is reporting that the Asian Longhorned Beetle has been successfully eradicated from Canada following 10 years of fighting the invasive species. An outbreak had occurred in Toronto when it was first confirmed in 2003. Since that time, more than 30,000 infested and host trees were removed. You can read the news release from the CFIA.
  • Is Wood the New Steel? - Here is an interesting article from Architect Magazine that talks about the increasing popularity of wood as a building material, contrary to more recent opinions and beliefs. A project scheduled for Prince George, British Columbia will construct a 6-story wood building, making it the highest in North America.

  • Climate Change Update - In the never-ending climate change debate, here is a statement from Penn State Extension Specialist Chuck Ray, Associate Professor of Wood and Forest Science that adds more questions to the debate. This brief statement contains some recent information about warming fluctuations and evidence that the warming trends have not been consistent. Please keep in mind that this is not an official statement from Penn State Extension. It is from Chuck Ray’s blog Go Wood, A lighter look at the world of wood, forestry, and renewable energy.
  • Quote of the Week - If there is anything that links the human to the divine, it is the courage to stand by principle when everybody else rejects it.” Abraham Lincoln.

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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