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Timber Talk 12/8/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Timber Theft Bill Ends With Legislative Session
HB 515 (Timber Theft) sponsored by Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield) started last week with 2 scheduled hearings in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, one for proponent testimony and a second the next day for opponent and interested party testimony. However, legislative hearing schedules often change and these did. The bill was dropped from the hearing schedule, apparently due to pressing needs with other bills and issues and too little time to address all of them. Prior to the change, Rep. McGregor forwarded copies of proponent testimony (a total of 4) to Chairman Dave Hall. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is not scheduled to meet during the remainder of this session. So with the legislative session for the 130thGeneral Assembly coming to an end, the bill dies and would have to be re-introduced in the next session. Rep. McGregor is term-limited and will not be in the House the next session. For this bill to be re-introduced a new sponsor would have to step forward.

So What Comes Next for the Timber Theft Legislation?
It is unclear what will come next. Unless a sponsor in the legislature comes forward to pick up the bill, it will not move ahead. At the moment, we are not aware of other legislative interest in the bill. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t interest, or that someone could raise the concern again. There has been some inside feedback that the issue is not dead and that it could come back at some point, sooner or later. The OFA Board discussed this concern at the last meeting in November. The primary discussion point was identifying OFA’s strategy in response to any future action on timber theft. Should OFA take an aggressive approach and develop a timber theft plan that might involve legislation? Or should we "let a sleeping dog lie” and respond only if the issue hits the legislature again? To that concern, the OFA Board sanctioned a task force to take a closer look at the issue, assessing what we went through and developing recommendations on an appropriate future response. A small group of Board members volunteered to assist on a review. If other OFA members would like to participate with the task force, please contact John Dorka (614-325-1005) to share your interest. Most likely, the task force will begin work after the first of the year.

Other Legislative News:

  • HB 490, Mid-Biennium Review, Continues in Senate. One of the bills that took up so much time with the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and preventing any further actions on HB 515 was HB 490, the Mid-Biennium Review bill dealing with a host of environmental issues. That bill made it through the House but received even more hearing time when it got to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Among the issues that drew additional testimony were oil and gas drilling, deer sanctuaries, dredging, puppy mills, sewers, the Great Lakes Compact, and telecommunications. The last issue has nothing to do with environmental issues but was included in this bill. It deals with a bill amendment that would allow phone service companies to discontinue line service when FCC rules kick into gear next year transforming the national phone system to an internet based system. Interestingly, the Ohio Farm Bureau testified in opposition to the amendment and believes that phone companies should be required to continue line service, which would impact rural residents and many of their members the most. The governor is opposed to allowing that action and has threatened veto of the entire bill if it is included. The oil and gas issue deals with unitization concerns. The bill amendment currently allows landowners to opt out of adjacent drilling plans. The Oil and Gas industry would like for the law to impose mandatory pooling and unitization
  • HB 5, Municipal Tax Laws. A bill that has been in the works for several years is HB 5 which would modify and standardize tax collections for Ohio municipalities. Currently Ohio has one of the most challenging local tax collections systems in the country with no standardization among cities, villages, and municipalities. This bill would make major changes to tax collections for more than 600 local jurisdictions. In general the current version of the bill is supported by business interests and opposed by cities, although a great number of issues have been worked out through compromise arrangements. The bill is expected to be passed before the end of the session.

CAUV Continues to Draw Attention
With the rapidly escalating tax rates under the Current Agricultural Use Valuation Program (CAUV), the Ohio Tax Commissioner is getting a lot of feedback from landowners and agencies that something is not right with value determinations and in turn formula changes are needed. Last week, OFA was invited to attend a meeting with several legislators to discuss recommendations on ways to improve rate determinations. An ad hoc committee of landowners from far NE Ohio including OFA Board member Paul Mechling and chaired byRep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) met with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) and aides of Rep. Jeff McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Rep. Roland Winburn (D-Dayton)to discuss the current high CAUV rates, including the woodland rates, and to present some recommendations for changes. The meeting highlighted problems with the formulae for determining agricultural land and woodland rates. Most notably the capitalization rates currently used appear way out of line. In addition, the land clearing costs associated with woodland values is badly outdated and do not reflect current costs. The group discussed trying to come up with a Joint Legislative Resolution asking the Governor to commission a review of the formula, with a concerted effort to get some action before the end of the lame duck session. Even if that doesn’t take place, at the minimum, the group is raising awareness among key legislators and other interested parties on problems with CAUV determinations.

Work Continues on Ohio Wood Product Manufacturer Directories
OFA is cooperating with Craig Rosenlundwith the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), part of the Ohio Appalachian Business Council, to create Ohio Wood Manufacturer Directories for primary and secondary manufacturers. This is a special effort commissioned by APEG to address wood manufacturing opportunities within the Appalachian Region. Craig recognizes the value of the directories extends beyond the Ohio Appalachian Counties and is thus compiling manufacturer information for the entire state of Ohio. Last week, OFA and the Division of Forestry met with APEG to discuss the directories and how to incorporate critical forest land and production information within the database. The most recent Ohio primary and secondary wood manufacturer directories were created in the early 2000s in a joint effort between OSU Extension and the ODNR Division of Forestry. Wood manufacturing has gone through significant changes in more than a decade and it would be valuable to update the directories.

Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC) Update
You can go to the WERC Update link to get information on USDA Forest Service grants and programs, including the 2015 Wood Innovations Funding Program which is designed to promote expansion of wood energy and wood products markets, upcoming workshops and webinars, the Virginia Tech Update on the Housing Market by Urs Buehlmann and the Minnesota DNR Update on Wood Markets by Dan Deckard.

Appalachian Hardwood Center (AHC) Newsletter
The AHC is located at West Virginia University in Morgantown and offers a number of information and research services to the Appalachian Hardwood industry. Click on the link to find information in the latest newsletter including items on the 2014 WV Wood Byproducts Directory; 2014 Walnut Market; Growing shiitake mushrooms; WV Timber Market Report; the future of wood preservation; More challenges to wood pallets; Steps to successful tree planting; and Timber harvest workshops for landowners.

2015 OFA Annual Meeting, February 11-12, 2015, Embassy Suites Columbus-Dublin
Get ready for the 2015 Annual Meeting. Registration mailings should be coming out soon. The theme of this year’s meeting is The Changing Business Climate for Ohio Forestry and the Hardwood Industry. We’ll have a number of speakers who will cover issues on the hardwood market and various industry sectors, what the Affordable Care Act is doing right now, how the Northern Long Eared Bat may affect hardwood forestry, as well as other federal issues on water and air. On the afternoon of the first day there will be an OWIN tour of Caretta Workspace in Lewis Center, manufacturers of modern workspace furniture built with Ohio hardwoods. The tour will be followed by an OWIN Reception for relaxation. The Awards Luncheon on Thursday will feature the Tree Farmer of the Year, Logger of the Year and other OFA Award Winners. The Tree Farm Committee will again hold a silent auction to raise funds for Tree Farm activities. The committee is accepting donations for the event which can be brought to the meeting. Contact Alex and Abby Kindler(740-214-4642; if you want to make a donation. The Committee is also planning some raffle items for the OWIN reception on Wednesday.

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