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Timber Talk 4/27/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OFA Opposed to "Hardwood Check Off.”
The OFA Board of Directors agreed to oppose the Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research, and Information Order (aka "Hardwood Check Off”) as had been originally proposed by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services. The "Hardwood Check Off” Order had been released for comment by USDA more than a year ago at which time interested parties provided written comments on the proposal. A considerable number of comments were made with a majority opposed to the proposal. It had been the belief among many in the industry that the order would not move forward, but earlier this year, we learned that the Blue Ribbon Commission (the group formulating the proposal) had renewed its bond for another year to keep working on the order. We had also had been told that the USDA was in the process of re-writing the order. With those actions, OFA felt it was important to take a stand on the order. Following a review with OFA industry members in which an overwhelming majority of manufacturing members indicated opposition to the original proposal, the OFA Board approved the position in opposition to the proposal.

CAUV Woodland Values Still an Issue
The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT)has yet to release final CAUV rates for the coming year, but it appears that the proposed rates, at least for woodlands, will remain as they were presented at the last Agricultural Advisory Committee meeting. OFA recently discussed woodland clearing rates again with staff from ODT, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Division of Forestry. ODT staff believes that the woodland clearing rates (raised to $1,000/acre) are reasonable and without having a formal and independent mechanism to assess current clearing rates, ODT does not indicate that rates will be raised any further. In spite of arguments that minimum woodland values have increased more than 4-fold since CAUV was implemented and clearing rates had never been modified, ODT remained firm in its position. There will be another public hearing for the Agricultural Advisory Committee on May 28 at ODT headquarters at which time comments on the proposed rates will again be taken.

Ohio Legislative and Policy News

  • Budget Passes House - Voting mostly along party lines, the House passed the Budget Bill (HB 64) and moves it on to the Senate. Among provisions of the bill that outlines $71.6 billion in spending, there is a 6.3% across-the-board income tax cut with the top rate lowered below 5% and a total of more than $1.2 billion in tax relief. There is also a 75% small business tax deduction on the first $250,000 of income. Funding for K-12 was increased by $179 million.
  • Budget Language Could Ease Wetlands Rules - The House-passed version of the Budget (HB 64) contains a provision that redefines wetlands preservation concerning its application within the Clean Water Act (CWA). The provision changes the designation from "perpetuity” to "long-term.” According to the CWA, if a wetland is drained or filled through some type of land management activity, then there must be wetland mitigation, usually in the form of recreating a wetland in another location, or through a conservation easement. It was argued that Ohio’s standards were more stringent that the CWA and this change would put it in line with federal standards. In testimony last week, the Ohio Coal Association argued that the provision would not change the requirement to mitigate the wetland loss. It would, however, allow a landowner the opportunity to use or lease his or her land in the future and not prevent its use, as the law now requires. Environmental groups pushed back on the proposal saying it will lead to permanent loss of wetlands. Currently Ohio has a "no net loss” policy on wetlands which requires that any wetlands destroyed through some management activity must be replaced by purchasing wetland credits for future wetland development or by full wetland reconstruction efforts.
  • Governor Announces "Cracker” Plant May Come to Belmont County - Last week, Governor Kasich announced that eastern Ohio may become the site of a large petrochemical complex, an ethane "cracker” plant developed by Japanese and Thai companies. The companies will be completing a detailed engineering analysis over the next 12-16 months with a decision due by 2016. A cracker plant processes ethane from shale drilling operations into ethylene which is used in plastics and resins for packaging, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.
  • BWC Board Approves Flexible Payment Plans Prior to Prospective Billing - The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors last week approved a plan to allow employers to pay premiums on installments. Business owners will be able to pay annual premiums in 2, 4, 6, or 12 month installments. All employers will automatically start on a bi-monthly plan and then will have until July 15 to select another option. This plan is part of the program change to prospective billing for all employers. As part of that plan, BWC has agreed to pay premiums on behalf of employers totaling $1.2 billion during the transition so that employers would not be double billed. BWC also indicated that base rates have been reduced 2.4% for private employers and 4% for public employers.
Ohio Forest Stewardship Committee Meets
The Ohio Forest Stewardship Committee held a periodic meeting last week to discuss updates with the Forest Legacy Program and review other items such as the Ohio Forest Tax Law proposed law change and an update on the Northern Long Eared Bat. DOF announced that it is in the process of acquiring 7 parcels of land totaling nearly 1,000 acres in Shawnee Forest with Forest Legacy funds. DOF also announced that it is working with the US Forest Service and NRCS on a Joint Chiefs Collaborative Oak Management program in a 17 county area of southeast Ohio. Through the program, cost share money will be provided to private woodland owners to encourage oak reproduction as well as control invasive species.

National Association of State Foresters (NASF) Report on State Best Management Practices
The NASF last week released its report Protecting Water Quality Through State Forestry Best Management Practices, which is a summary of a 50-state analysis of forestry best management practices to protect water quality. The report confirms that BMP programs are effective and working. Here is a copy of the news release issued by NASF. You can also take a look at an interactive map that allows users to get information on specific states.

#Another Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC) Fuel Depot in Ohio?
Last week, OFA spoke with Dave McCann and Rick Larson from the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) about opportunities for the NCIF to assist in developing another SLC Fuel Depot in Ohio, similar to the one located near the Glatfelter mill in Chillicothe. NCIF is the "green business lender” of the Conservation Fund and provides capital for business opportunities in the "green” industry. NCIF not long ago worked with the South Carolina Timber Producers Association and the Southern Loggers Cooperative to begin construction of a fuel depot in that state. NCIF provided a portion of the financing necessary to get a fuel depot started. OFA will be exploring opportunities in Ohio for further expansion of the fuel depot model.

SOFA May Newsletter
Here is the May Newsletter of the Southern Ohio Forestland Association with information on the recent general meeting and tour on the Tim and Carol Shoemaker farm and has the usual information on upcoming events and activities. Note that there is a schedule for "A Day in the Woods” (see flyer) which takes place on every second Friday of the month starting in May through November at the Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest. The series starts on Friday, May 8 with "Night in the Forest” that will provide participants an opportunity to see and hear wildlife and critters that frequent the Vinton Furnace Forest.

USDA Announces Plan to Address Climate Change Through Agriculture and Forestry
Last week, the USDA announced that it has developed a comprehensive plan and approach to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners respond to climate change. The framework, which is summarized in this Fact Sheet, lays out 10 building blocks relating to technologies and practices that will help increase carbon storage and encourage renewable energy. The plan is voluntary-based and makes use of Farm Bill authorities to carry out the programs. Regardless of your thoughts on climate change, these efforts promote working forests and wood products which are the basis of a forest products economy.

Coming Events:

  • CSAW Chainsaw Training Classes - See the OFA website for the complete list of Chainsaw training classes. There are classes scheduled for April and May.
  • Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference; Manufacturing Workforce: Building Capacity; May 12, 2015, Ohio University, Athens. there will be a conference hosted by Ohio University in Athens and sponsored by the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) on opportunities for building workforce capacity in manufacturing in Appalachian Ohio. The full-day conference will give attendees the chance to interact with local and state leaders, economic developers, and manufacturers in the region. You need to pre-register and to do so, visit www.ohio.edu/voinovichschool and click on "Register Now.” See the flyer for more information.
  • Employment Law Seminar, May 15, 2015, Dublin Embassy Suites - See the flyer for the event. The session is the morning of May 15 and includes a continental breakfast. There is a $10 registration fee.
  • Seminar: The Federal Endangered Species Act: Implementation, Effectiveness and Implications for Natural Resources Management. May 29,2015, OSU, Columbus - A group of sponsors including OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources, ODNR Division of Wildlife, and OSU Extension are hosting a full-day seminar on the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is designed for Natural Resource Managers who have to deal with Endangered Species issues. It will be held on May29, 2015 at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center on the OSU campus in Columbus. The Ohio Woodland Steward website has information on the seminar. Registration is $30 with a breakfast and lunch included. The registration deadline is May 22,2015.
  • OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 7-12, 2015, FFA Camp Muskingum - Camp is approaching and sign-ups are already taking place. Those registering before May 1 can get the "early-bird” rate of $325, a $50 savings. Go to the OFA website for camp information.
  • Lumber Grading Short Course, June 8-11, 2015, Yoder Lumber Company, Millersburg, Ohio - OFA is once again hosting the Lumber Grading Short Course at the Yoder Lumber Company, Buckhorn Mill in Millersburg, Ohio. The course is taught by NHLA Inspector Barry Kibbey. The fee for the course is $325 for OFA members/$400 for non-members. You can find information about the course here.
  • OWIN Summer Meeting, July 22-23, 2015, Marietta, Ohio - Maybe you’ve heard, but the OWIN Summer Meeting will be back once again in Marietta, Ohio! Also back by popular request is a reception on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler the evening of July 22. On July 23, there will be golf at the Marietta Country Club and a sporting clay shoot at Hilltop Sporting Clays in Whipple. The registration brochure is on it's way, or you can register on-line.
  • Forest Heritage Festival, August 8, 2015, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds.
  • Ohio Tree Farm of the Year Tour, September 19, 2015, Sycamore Hills Tree Farm, Harrison County.
  • Paul Bunyan Show, October 2-4, 2015, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

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