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TImber Talk 2/10/14

Posted By John Dorka, Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 OFA Annual Meeting
The meeting is several weeks away and quickly approaching, but there is still time to register. You have a couple more days to take advantage of the special meeting room rates at the Columbus Sheraton Hotel on Capitol Square. You can register on-line at the OFA website. You can also call the OFA office and register over the phone (614-497-9580, talk to Gayla or Pam). The meeting should be informative and a chance to talk about current issues affecting forestry in Ohio. Potential timber theft legislation and the Hardwood Check-Off are two areas of particular interest. For the second year in a row, we have scheduled a Legislative Reception at the Statehouse for the attendees to have a chance to talk with their state elected representatives. We have had a good number of senators and representatives RSVP for the meeting. You can check the attendees on the website to see if your representative has already signed up. More information will be coming out on contacting your elected representatives for invitations to the meeting.

ODA Proposes Changes to Pesticide Applicators Law Tightening Renewal Requirements
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is proposing to change ORC 921.12 (Ohio Pesticide Law) tightening the requirements for renewal of the commercial and private applicators license. Currently, licensed commercial applicators have one year after the expiration date of their license to renew without re-taking an exam. The proposed change would reduce that time period to 180 days. Licensed private applicators currently have 3 years to renew licenses before having to retake tests. The proposed change would give private applicators an additional 6 month grace period. ODA says that the changes are intended primarily to streamline internal processes but hope that the changes will encourage licensees to renew in a timely fashion. You can view the proposed changes in the this document.

Senate Approves Farm Bill
With a bipartisan vote of 68-32, the Senate passed the Farm Bill last week. As has been mentioned and hoped for some time, there are key elements of interest to the forestry included in the bill, which are summarized in this article from the National Wood Flooring Association. These include funding for the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Programs, domestic program emphasis through such programs as the Bio-Based Markets Program, funding for renewable energy programs that stimulate residual markets, a strengthened commitment to using wood in green building, and protecting logging roads from being under the NPDES permit requirements, and key incentives for woodland management on private lands. There is also a provision that allows more than 900 communities to retain their definition of "rural” thus giving their residents access to USDA rural housing programs for low-income individual. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that those provisions will result in an additional $1.2 billion in construction and remodeling activity and help fuel spending for wood products. Both Ohio Senator Rob Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown voted in favor of the Farm Bill. You can see how Ohio’s Representatives voted on the bill when it was passed in the House earlier. You can see a detailed bullet summary of forestry concerns in the Farm Bill in this document from the National Association of State Foresters.

OFA Testifies on Senate Concurrent Resolution No.25 on LEED Green Building Standards
OFA joined with several other trade associations to testify in favor of Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 (S.C.R. No. 25) which deals with opposition to the latest version of LEEDv4 "green” building standards. Here is OFA testimony. The forest products industry has long had problems with LEED building standards in that it only recognizes wood from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woodlands. For years, forestry interests have asked the US Green Building Council, which establishes LEED standards, to simply open the standard to recognize other 3rd party-verified systems. The new standard was slightly modified to "Wood products must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or USGBC-approved equivalent” but no equivalents have been identified nor is a process outlined to do so. Apparently the LEEDv4 contains similar biases with other products that will eliminate credits for many chemically manufactured or recycled products in Ohio. The Senate resolution asks that State of Ohio only use green building standards that are inclusive and meet ANSI standards. In an unexpected fashion, the hearing lasted for more than 3 hours, generating an unusual amount of testimony from both opponents and proponents.

Oil and Gas Severance Tax Proposal to be Amended for Higher Tax Rate and More Money to Local Governments
Rep. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), House speaker pro tem and sponsor of the original proposal to overhaul the oil and gas severance tax rates, indicates he is preparing to introduce a substitute version that will propose a higher tax rate and will earmark some portion of the revenues for local governments. He advised that after meeting numerous times with the Governor’s office, oil and gas industry groups, and local officials, he believes that HB 375 need to be revised. The substitute version is not decided yet, but it appears that the proposed tax rate will fall somewhere between the Governor’s original proposal of 2.75% and the "1% first 5 years/2% after until production falls” version in the original bill. Although Governor Kasich and Tax Commissioner Testa believe the proposed "tax on net proceeds” approach has flaws, Rep. Huffman wants to hold with that approach and believes any loopholes can be addressed. Another area to be addressed is the current proposal to grant a "one-to-one” income tax credit to severance taxpayers. The rewrite would likely grant the credit to landowners who pay the severance tax but would not do the same for the oil and gas companies. How that would be done is still being looked at. The original proposal contains a Commercial Activity Tax exemption for drillers and will likely remain in the substitute version. Yet to be figured out is a formula for returning some portion of the tax revenues to local governments. There has been much discussion on the need to return money, but so far there has been no plan proposed as to how to accomplish that. Part of the difficulty deals with how to equitably return money to areas of the state that are disproportionately affected by oil and gas activity.

Senate Approves Invasive Plant Bill Giving ODA Full Authority
The Senate passed with near unanimous support SB 192 which gives the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) full responsibility over invasive plants in Ohio. As mentioned before the intent is to prevent local jurisdictions from establishing ordinances that could conflict with one another and cause difficulties for pest management.

Election Year Has Candidates Lining Up
This is a big election year for state and federal offices, and already candidates are making election plans. The odd-numbered State Senate Districts are up for elections this year while all of the 99 House Districts are up for election. For a brief run-down of information on the elections, you can refer to this election information sheet.

NAHB Predicts Rise in Home Construction in 2014
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) predicts that there will be a 25% increase in both single-family and multi-family housing starts in 2014, a total of 1.2 million starts. According to NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Research, the increase should continue into 2015 and the top 20 states will be back to "normal” production. Contrarily, home renovation and remodeling will almost stagnate.

Ohio Deer Season Falls Below 2012-2013 Season
The ODNR Division of Wildlife is reporting that 191,000 deer were checked during the 2013-2014 hunting season, nearly 30,000 less than a year ago (a 14% drop). Coshocton (6,720), Tuscarawas (5,744), and Licking (5,711) Counties were the top deer harvest counties in Ohio. Based on new deer harvest reporting options for hunters, since the season started Sept. 28, 2013, 47% reported their kill over the phone, 32% reported on-line, 11% visited a license agent’s location, and 10% used a new mobile website.

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