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Ohio Legislative and Policy News:
Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program to Transfer from ODNR to ODA; Silviculture to Stay with ODNR-Forestry - Last week, OFA was asked to participate on a conference call with leadership from the Ohio Departments of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio EPA along with key interest groups concerning a change with Ohio’s Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program. Currently the Ag Pollution Abatement Program is administered by the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation in cooperation with the Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. New legislation directs that the Ag Pollution Abatement Program be transferred to the Ohio Department of Agriculture in light of new issues and needs relating to the statewide algae problems. Many of us are familiar that silvicultural activities are part of the Ag Pollution Abatement Law. As part of the new administrative plan, the silvicultural component of the law will remain at ODNR with authority transferred to the Division of Forestry. For all intents and purposes, the administration for logging sediment control should remain the same for OFA concerns. Soil and Water Districts should continue to be involved in silvicultural activities as they have in the past, only ODNR activities will be coordinated by the Division of Forestry now. This should arrangement should work.
Taxation Holds Final CAUV Rate Hearing; Woodland Clearing Rate Remains Unchanged - Last week, the Ohio Department of Taxation, Division of Tax Equalization held its final hearing on the new rates for agricultural lands under the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) Program. The Agricultural Advisory Committee of which OFA is an invited member was given a chance to comment on the final rates. In addition, Taxation provided an opportunity for attending members of the public to make comments or ask questions as well. Thissummary sheetcontains the final rates that will be implemented. Concerning woodlands, there was no change to the land clearing rate from the last meeting. It was at $500/acre where it was static since the program was created in the early 1970s. Taxation proposed raising that to $1,000/acre. Late last year, OFA provided data that indicated rates are in the range of $2,200 -$4,500/acre. OFA objected to the selection of the woodland clearing rate of $1,000/acre. In addition, other committee members including the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Farmers Union, Division of Forestry, and Auditors all agreed that the woodland clearing rate was too low and required further revision and work. However, it appears that the Department of Taxation will provide these rates to County Auditors for use in the next round of property reappraisals.
Ohio Avian Flu Concerns May Create Need for Wood Chips to Compost Chickens - According to ODNR, Ohio officials are concerned that Avian Flu is a potential threat to the states chicken industry, caused the spread of the H5N2 virus by migratory birds. State officials are discussing contingencies in the event that avian flu makes its way to the state. If that happens then possible mandatory quarantines could result in large-scale composting of bird carcasses and wood chips may be used for composting purposes. ODNR reached out to OFA to alert us to the possibility. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is testing Ohio chicken flocks for the presence of the influenza virus.
Senate Continues Discussion on Tax Changes in Budget Bill - Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) indicated last week that the Senate will continue to discuss and review tax changes in the Budget Bill (HB 64) and believes that the Senate will still maintain if not increase the amount of cut in personal and business income taxes that the Kasich administration had originally proposed. Still at stake is the proposed changes to oil and gas severance taxes. The Senate has a target date of June 17 to complete the budget package but the Senate President indicates that it will take longer if necessary to completely discuss the full range of tax proposals.
Two Republican House Members Argue for Extending Green Energy Development Incentives - Rep. Tim Brown (R-Bowling Green) and Rep. Tony Burley (R-Pauling) argued last week that extending incentives for wind turbine development in Ohio would pay dividends by attracting high-tech businesses. Both are sponsors to HB 190, Wind Farm Set-Back and Energy Project Tax Exemption which would extend the incentives for green energy development. The incentives include state payment in lieu of taxes for energy produced ($9,000/MW) and would be extended for another 5 years. The bill is also intended to eliminate the extensive wind turbine set back (approximately 1,300’ from the nearest property line) that was established in the last session that some have argued makes it nearly impossible to site wind turbines in Ohio.
ODNR News Release – OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp
Many thanks to ODNR for its assistance in getting the word out on the OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp. ODNR issued a news release on May 22 urging Ohio teenagers to consider attending the camp.
US EPA Issues Draft Renewable Fuel Rules
The US EPA has issued draft rules on renewable fuels that would increase the amount of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation’s fuel supply. EPA has issued new Renewable Fuel Standards that are below those in the 10-year old RFS law but with steadily increasing amounts. In 2014, the US consumed 15.93 billion gallons of renewable fuels. The new RFS would increase to 16.3 billion gallons in 2015 and to 17.4 billion in 2016. Cellulosic biofuel has a 33 million gallon standard for 2014 which is expected to increase to 106 million gallons in 2015 and 206 million gallons in 2016. Agribusinesses had concerns that the lower amounts in the proposed standards would hurt the corn market in Ohio, as grain volumes are abundant. Contrarily, petroleum interests are concerned that the new RFS could significantly boost the price of diesel, some saying prices could go up 30% in 2015. The US EPA rules are open for public comment through July 27 and the rules are expected to be completed by November 30.
US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc. Promotes Check-Off Programs
Last week, OFA received information about the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Inc. actively promotingCheck-Off Programs. The page at the link provides a brief summary of each of the check off initiatives that the Endowment has or is working on. It appears that the Endowmentcreated the Growing Traditional Markets Initiative and one of the key agenda items is to develop check-off programs for various forest product industry sectors. Note that the page mentions the Hardwood Check Off initiative, as well as a Timber Harvesting Check-Off. The US Endowment is a not-for-profit corporation established in 2006 according to terms of the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) between the two countries. The SLA was the result of forest product trade disputes between the two countries when the US accused Canada of improper pricing on exported products to this country. The Endowment received $200 million under the terms of the SLA to support "meritorious initiatives” for the forest products industry.
Growing the Softwood Lumber Market
On the note of the check-offs, here is a statement fromDuncan Davies, President and CEO of Interfor, a large softwood producer headquartered in Vancouver, BC making a pitch for wood promotion programs. It is interesting to note that the softwood promotion targets architects, engineers, developers, designers, and contractors as key decision-makers in using wood products.
Tall Wood Building News: Wood Buildings Are Cheaper and More Environmentally Friendly; World’s Tallest Wood Building Being Built in Norway
A studyby a German federal agency for renewable raw materials concluded that the carbon footprint of tall timber buildings is smaller than those traditionally built with stone, concrete, and steel. In addition, in most cases the cost of tall timber buildings is also less. Meanwhile, Norway news sources are reporting that the world’s tallest wood building, a 14-story apartment building, is being constructed in western Norway.
Forestry Coalition to Promote Carbon Neutrality of Biomass
A coalition of forestry and forest products industry organizations including those representing landowners, wood suppliers, and manufacturers is working to advocate the carbon neutrality of biomass. The effort is branded as Biomass101and to assist promotion, a website has been created which can be accessed at the link. It is worth a couple minutes to take a look at the site and especially read the Our Principles page. It is an excellent summary of the key points on the arguments for biomass carbon neutrality. One of the primary aims of the group is to target unbalanced reporting by the media and correct the misinformation. The website will also include blogs, videos, and infographics that will help to tell the complete story on biomass.
SOFA June Newsletter
Here is the June Newsletter for the Southern Ohio Forestland Association. The issue contains the usual round-up of information on the most recent general meeting at which Dr. Dave Shetlar presented on insect and disease threats to woodlands. There is also brief notes on A Day in the Woods/2ndFriday Series at the Vinton Furnace State Forest, the Powasasan (POW) Virus Disease, a rare but serious disease spread by ticks, a discussion on wood "hardness” between hardwoods and softwoods, and upcoming events and activities.
Second Annual Tree Autopsy Workshop, June 6, 2015, Newbury, Ohio - This workshop is intended for arborists and those with a focus in urban forestry, but it may have interest for foresters and those working with traditional forest products. The Ohio Independent Arborist Association is hosting the workshop at the Independent Tree Service in Newbury, Ohio. The workshop is free but the organizers ask for RSVP on registration.Here is a flyer.
OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 7-12, 2015, FFA Camp Muskingum - 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.
Council on Forest Engineering Annual Meeting, July 19-22, 2015, Lexington, KY - The Council on Forest Engineering (COFE), a national member organization of businesses and people interested in forest engineering issues, is administered by the Appalachian Hardwood Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown. COFE is planning its annual meeting on July 19-22, 2015 in Lexington, KY and the meeting will be hosted by the University of Kentucky. The theme of this year’s meeting is Engineering Solutions for Nonindustrial Private Forest Operations. The meeting will be at the Downtown Hilton Hotel. There will be host of sessions on topics pertinent to forest operations in Ohio.
OWIN Summer Meeting, July 22-23, 2015, Marietta, Ohio - A great gathering is planned for the OWIN Summer Meeting in Marietta. Check the OFA websitefor information and registration. We welcome those members wishing to sponsor at the meeting or during the events. There are opportunities to be a sponsor of the Riverboat reception, or to support a golf hole or clay station. Contact Gayla at the OFA office, 614-497-9580, ext. 5.
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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