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Timber Talk 6/10/14

Posted By Denise Brosie, Tuesday, June 10, 2014

·         Ohio Statehouse News.  Following last week’s flurry of activity, the Legislature has gone on summer break until at least September and even after that work will be spotty with November elections coming later.   Last week they took a number of actions and sent many bills to the Governor for signature.  Below is a brief rundown of just a few actions taken last week.

o   HB 515, Timber Harvesting.  It appears that any further action on HB 515, Timber Harvesting, the bill dealing primarily with new timber theft laws, will be limited at best, if anything takes place through the remainder of the year.  The Ohio Forestry Association, Inc. was opposed to this legislation and felt that it was heavy-handed and would have imposed a significant burden on the forest products industry and forest landowners.  Although OFA always has been and remains firmly against the unlawful and illegal removal of timber, we did not feel that this proposal was appropriate and even more, had concerns that in the process of placing new regulatory and enforcement burdens on the industry, it would not adequately address timber theft.  We will continue monitoring this proposal and any efforts to address timber theft.  As always, we appreciate hearing from our members on their ideas or concerns about timber theft or any other forestry issue affecting the industry and landowners.  Feel free to call John Dorka at 614-497-9580.  

o   Tax Cuts.  In HB 483, MBR Appropriations, the small business income tax cut (first passed last year) was further increased.  It is increased from 50% of the first $250,000 of income to as much as 75% for 2014, with the actual amount depending upon the amount of state funding available at the end of the year.  The personal income tax was also accelerated, the individual tax exemption was increased and the Earned Income Tax Credits were expanded.

o   SB 3, Rulemaking.  Revises the way state rules are implemented, making more of them subject to review to determine their impact on businesses.

o   SB 263, Tax Refunds.  Requires the Department of Taxation to notify businesses  when they overpay taxes and provides automatic refunds in the form of credits toward future taxes.  Prior to this bill, the Department was not required by law to notify businesses of tax overpayments and in many cases, the Department did not voluntary notify businesses costing them millions in potential refunds.

o   SB 52, Property Tax Complaints Removed by Conference Committee.  A bill tightening the rules on who can initiate review of property tax valuations, allowing only the property owner to do so, was removed by the MBR conference committee after school districts, counties, townships, and municipalities reacted strongly that the legislation would set a bad precedent for property tax valuations and hurt other landowners in the process.  These groups often challenge property appraisals but said if this legislation passed, they could only do so if a property owner challenges the valuations, and that is normally only done when valuations are too high.

o   SB 255, Financial Responsibility.  The Senate passed this bill that allows companies to issue electronic ID cards to show proof of insurance to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, a peace officer, traffic violations bureau or a court.

·         Survey Indicates Strong Majority of Hardwood Industry Opposes "Check-off”.  A recent survey of U.S. hardwood lumber manufacturers eligible to vote on a hardwood "check-off” indicates that a very strong majority of these manufacturers are opposed to a "check-off” system.  The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Hardwood Lumber Industry Coalition and completed by Conquest Communications from Richmond, VA indicated that 83% of the respondents said that they would not vote for the "check-off.”  According to industry numbers, there are 1,434 companies eligible to vote for the "check-off” and 275 companies participated in the survey.  The "check-off” is officially called the Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research, and Information Order by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which has the federal authority to create and oversee agricultural commodity check-off programs.  According to the survey, respondents provided feedback on problems with how the check-off program is constructed, including concerns that hardwood lumber and hardwood plywood should not be under the same program, that imports are excluded, and there is a small business exclusion with businesses under $2 million in annual revenues not included.  You can read the news release from the US Hardwood Lumber Industry Coalition put out at the end of May explaining the survey results.

·         U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Votes to Suspend Enforcement Funding for FMCSA Hours of Service "Restart” Provision.  Commercial trucking scored a victory last week when the full Senate Appropriations Committee voted 21-9 to suspend funding for the "restart” provision in the Hours of Service portion of the CSA rules, pending a one-year study on the basis of the provision.  The provision had been seriously criticized for creating difficulties for drivers, trucking firms and shippers.  Here is a summary of the "restart” portion of the Hours of Service rule.  There was bipartisan support in the vote with 7 Democrats joining all the Republicans in passing the amendment to the bill.  In full, the amendment suspends the requirement that a driver have a 34 hour rest period which must include consecutive 1 am – 5 am periods before a driver can restart and restores the rules in effect for July 1, 2013 until Sept. 30, 2015 or until the final report is issues.  This is only a committee vote, however.  It must be approved by the full Senate and then possibly go to conference committee to reconcile differences from the House version.

·          "Truth About Trees” Video Receives Bronze Telly Award.  The educational video Truth About Trees produced by the Hardwood Forest Foundation recently won a Bronze Telly Award in the 35th annual Telly Awards competition.  The video was reportedly one of more than 12,000 entries submitted for the contest.  The video won in the "Non-Broadcast Productions – Education” Category.  OFA recently posted the video on our website and is acquiring copies for distribution to members and those who are interested in getting the video to school age audiences.  You can view the video by clicking on the above link and you can get more information about the Hardwood Forest Foundation on its website.

·         U.S. EPA Releases Proposed Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Guidelines. The Obama Administration continues its push for new environmental regulations with the release of the long discussed GHG emissions guidelines for electric power plants.  The rule package is incredibly long and involved and for those with maybe an unusual sense of humor, you can access the complete rule and other documents at the U.S. EPA website.  Briefly, the rule will require states to reduce GHG emissions from existing power plants an average of 30% by 2030, starting with 2005 levels and states will have to show progress by 2020.  (In comparison, Ohio will have to reduce GHG emissions by 28%, West Virginia by 19%, and Kentucky by 18% by 2030).  States will have to develop plans as to how each will meet the targets and will have one year to complete them, following anticipated passage of the rule in 2015.  It appears that biomass fuels will be acceptable in plans to reduce emissions as EPA recognizes the biomass fuels can reduce GHG emissions, an issue that has been hotly contested for some time by environmental groups.  Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, which received consideration in recent years in Ohio law for meeting energy efficiency standards, are considered to help states meet GHG targets.  The GHG rule applies to new power plants.  EPA also has proposed a rule for the modification and reconstruction of existing power plants.  The game has begun on the proposed rule.  It has already garnered press coverage as it was released and will continue to do so.  There is a 120-day comment period on the proposed rule and there will be regional hearings around the country. 

·         Mohegan Indian Tribe Buys Peebles, Ohio Wood Pellet Plant. The Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, operating through a subsidiary, Northeast Wood Products, LLC, purchased two wood pellet facilities of the Pennington Seed Co., one in Peebles, Ohio and the other in Kenbridge, Virginia.  It also has an agreement to buy a third wood pellet plant in Ligonier, Indiana.  It appears that the new company will continue production of wood pellets as had been done at the facility.  It has plans to produce more than 130,000 tons of pellets per year from the Ohio and Indiana facilities.  You can read more about the transaction in an on-line article the Hartford Courant.

·         Dr. Eric McConnell, Assistant Professor and Forest Products Specialist, OSU Extension to Take Job at North Carolina State University.  Dr. Eric McConnell, Forest Products Specialist who joined OSU Extension 3 and a half years ago, announced that he will be taking the Extension Wood Products Specialist position in the Department of Forest Biomaterials at North Carolina State University.  He will be with OSU Extension until August 31, 2014.  Dr. McConnell has been serving on the OFA Board representing education and was also a member of the Logging Standards Council.  Dr. McConnell had done some outstanding work in the short time he was with OSU, developing updated information on Ohio’s forest products industry with the OSU Fact Sheet Ohio’s Forest Economy and a summary of that document put into a brochure.  To complement these publications, he had been working summarizes for individual counties within Ohio, and those can be found here.  Dr. McConnell had also completed a comprehensive survey of Ohio challenges and opportunities for Ohio Loggers.  Among all that, he made numerous industry and landowner presentations and taught classes at OSU.  Even after only a short time, Dr. McConnell will be missed and we wish him the best in his new efforts.  In the meantime, we will be working with OSU Extension to see what plans will be to replace his position and continue the good effort he generated.

·         Tree Farm CEO Tom Martin Discusses Farm Bill in June 20 Conference Call and Listening Session.  Tom Martin, the CEO of the American Forest Foundation, which oversees the American Tree Farm Program, will host a listening session on June 20 from 12 pm noon to 1 pm EDT to discuss the Farm Bill and all that it contains for woodland owners.  He will discuss specifics on forestry components of the Farm Bill, talk about strategy moving forward and ask for suggestions on how to make the programs work best for Tree Farmers and family forest owners.  You can register for the free session here.

         OWIN Summer Meeting Golf Outing and Clay Shoot, July 23-24, Holiday Inn, Portsmouth, OH.  The OWIN Summer Meeting will take place once again in southern Ohio on July 23-24, 2014, at the Portsmouth Holiday Inn.  The meeting will start on the afternoon of July 23 with an OWIN Networking Reception at the Portsmouth Brewing Company along the Ohio River in downtown Portsmouth.  For those interested, prior to the reception there will be a guided walking tour of the famous Portsmouth "Floodwall Murals”, a great pictorial of the rich, 2000-year history of the Portsmouth and Ohio River area.  We will start at the Holiday Inn and end at the Portsmouth Brewing Company.  Following that there are opportunities to eat at several restaurants in downtown Portsmouth.  The next day there will be golfing at the Portsmouth Elks Country Club in McDermott and Anderson’s Sporting Clays in Lucasville, same locations as last year.  We will end the day with a steak dinner and awards at the Elks Clubhouse.  Register now.

  • Other Upcoming Events:

o   CSAW Level 1, June 20, OSU Mansfield.  Registration is close to being filled.  You can register on-line by clicking on the link or download a registration form.

o   Master Logger Certification Training, BMP Training, July 17, 2014 and  CSAW Level 1, July 18, 2014, Scioto Trail State Forest.  You can register for both on-line at the OFA website by clicking on the links.  You can also print the registration form from these sites.

o   National Tree Farm Convention, July 17-19, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA.  The National Tree Farm Convention is close to Ohio this year in Pittsburgh, PA.  Those thinking about taking in the convention can get information for all the activities and programs by clicking on the link.  It appears that convention-goers will have the chance to enjoy downtown Pittsburg, while concurrent sessions will covers such diverse subjects as controlling a forest policy agenda for the future, succession planning for your woodlands, reducing the impact of income taxes on forestry income, profitable timber marketing and harvesting, solar kilns and wood drying, lobbying for woodland owner programs, restoring American chestnut, golden eagles and eastern forests, the history of charcoal in eastern forests, invasive species, maple syrup production, and more. You can register on-line at this site.

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