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USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Announces Call for Additional Comments on "Hardwood Check-Off”
Today, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced that it is seeking additional comments on the Proposed Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research, and Information Order, also known as the Hardwood Check-Off. In 2014, USDA received considerable comments on the proposed order. According to the announcement by USDA, the comment period will be re-opened with respect to specific issues that were identified. USDA is also issuing a supplemental notice of proposed rules regarding the procedures for conducting a referendum to determine whether the hardwood industry supports the proposed program. According to the notice, there will be a 30-day comment period starting on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 and running through July 9, 2015. The website indicates you can read the supplemental notices on the Agricultural Marketing Services website. At the moment, you can only read the order here by downloading a pdf. The order relating to referendum procedures can be read here, again by downloading a pdf. On June 9, the information can be read on-line when the order is officially opened again. Comments can then be submitted. OFA will be reviewing the supplemental orders to determine appropriate response and action.
Ohio Policy and Legislative News
Senate Set to Review Further Tax Cuts in Budget - Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) announced that in the coming week, the Senate Finance Committee is set to announce even further tax cuts than those approved by the House, including a bigger across the board personal income tax reduction than the 6.3% already proposed by the House. The total impact of the cut would be about $500 million. The small business tax cut would be expanded from the 75% in the House version to 100% of the first $250,000 of income. Tobacco taxes are also expected to be increased, but not by the $1/pack of cigarettes that the governor proposed. The Senate is expected to have some kind of increased oil and gas severance tax but there is considerable work still going on to know what the proposal will be. On that point, ODNR reported that oil production from horizontally drilled wells increased 24% from the 4th quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015. During the first quarter, 4.4 million barrels of oil and 183 billion cubic feet of natural gas were produced. That represents an increase of 842,000 barrels of oil and 18 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The report also indicates shows Ohio have 926 wills with 877 in production, an increase of 12% for the first quarter. Those pushing for a tax increase argue that the depressed market does not appear to have hurt production. The industry counters that the number of drilling rigs currently operating in Ohio have dropped significantly from December of 2014, currently at 25 and down from 60 then. The industry maintains that this is the indicator of what is on the horizon for production.
Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Reports Approving 54 Family Farm Easements - Using money from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, last week reported that agricultural easements were approved on 54 Ohio farms totaling 7,512 acres. The easements are intended to ensure that the land will remain permanently in agricultural production. From the time the program was started in 2002, 247 family farms totaling 45,576 acres in 53 counties have been covered by agricultural easements through the program.
HB 176, Gaseous Fuel Vehicles Proposed Introduced - In a bipartisan effort, Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) and Rep. Sean O’Brien (D-Hubbard)have introduced HB 176 to the House Ways and Means Committee which is a bill intended to encourage consumers to adopt natural gas and electric vehicles. The bill would authorize the state to offer tax incentives for consumers to purchase new natural gas operated vehicles or convert a vehicle to run on natural gas. The incentive would provide 50% of the cost to purchase or convert, with incentives capped at $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000 for vehicles classed as light, medium, and heavy, respectively. There would also be a $500 sales tax incentive for those purchasing a qualified electric vehicle. Both legislators said that Ohio lags behind other states in offering such incentives and believe that Ohio’s Utica shale play is reason to promote natural gas. The bill also includes a 10-year phase in for compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and propane motor fuel tax, which would be 0 cents per gallon for the first five years. At year 8 the tax would jump to 7 cents a gallon and 14 cents per gallon in year 9 and thereafter.
Avian Flu a Concern - Last week, we reported that the state had contacted OFA about pending avian flu concerns and the possible need for wood chips to compost infected birds. As part of the action against avian flu, the state has cancelled all live bird exhibitions at fairs this year.
U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) Releases Truck Size and Weight Study; Confirms Benefits of Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA)
The US DOT last week released the long-awaited truck size and weight study that had been commissioned by Congress to assess the impact of heavier trucks on the nation’s interstate highways. The findings are very favorable to support SETA and increasing vehicle weights for trucks with 6-axle configurations. Some of the significant findings are:
- A shift to heavier truck configurations would result in overall lowering of vehicle miles traveled by commercial haulers;
- Total logistics costs would decline;
- More productive trucks would lower congestion cost and fuel costs and cut carbon and other emissions;
- Weight reform would produce significant pavement cost reductions;
- Vehicle stability and safety are unchanged on heavier, 6-axle vehicles;
- Bridge impacts could be addressed through postings and modest investments in fees.
The reports will be independently reviewed by the Transportation Research Board and there will be a public outreach session in the near future for the public to comment on the findings. All the information will be combined into a report that will go to Congress later this year. The Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP) which OFA supports and works with indicates that 70% of US freight is moved by trucks and is expected to grow by 25% over the next decade. CTP argues that the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act would be a huge help for the country in both cost efficiency as well as helping to keep roads safer. Those wishing to see more information about the report can link to the US DOT website.
US EPA Reports Hydraulic Fracturing Not a Problem for Drinking Water
Last week, the U.S. EPA released a report that indicated hydraulic fracturing ("fracking”) for oil and gas exploration causes no widespread impact on drinking water. The results are from a 4-year study commissioned by Congress to review the impacts of fracking on drinking water. The report did indicate that there may be vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water, particularly from the use and disposal of water used in the fracking process.
Message from Bruce Vincent, Long-Time Forestry Advocate
Some in OFA who have been around for a while will remember Bruce Vincent and his visit to speak at an OFA meeting in years past. It was back during the days when the timber wars across the country and particularly out west were at their height. At that time, Bruce gave a passionate speech about the value of working forests and the forest products industry and what they all mean to the fabric of America. It appears Bruce Vincent is still active and passing along his valuable environmental message to other commodity industries. You can read an article about Bruce Vincent speaking to a group of Australian beef producers at a Meat and Livestock Australia seminar. He harkens to lessons learned while fighting the forestry wars, citing that they and we need a new environmental vision built on hope for the future, not on fear of practices and what is currently done. He promotes being proactive and educating the public about what is right, a message that is the same as it has been for a long time. He suggests 4 tips for public engagement, using the acronym HELP standing for Humanize the discussion, Empathize with the public, Listen to the public, and Participate in the process. He believes that the industry needs to lead with good practices.
OSU Extension Workshop: Pipeline Easements and Right of Way Agreements, August 3, 2015, Cadiz
OSU Extension and the Ohio Farm Bureau will host an evening workshop on August 3, 2015 at the library in Cadiz, Ohio to provide landowners and other attendees information regarding easements and reseeding rights-of-way for pipelines associated with oil and gas production. Presenting will be Dale Arnold, Farm Bureau Director of Energy Services and OSU Extension specialists Dan Lima and Sarah Cross. There is no cost but pre-registration is required. HERE is a flyer for the event.
Special Thoughts and Prayers
is a special request for thoughts and prayers for Martha McCarthy, wife of Rob
McCarthy, OFA immediate past president and currently employed by Industrial
Timber and Lumber. Martha is in a battle with cancer, and it has been
particularly difficult and challenging on her and her family. She has
been taking treatments at the Cleveland Clinic and was recently at the James
Cancer Hospital at OSU for special procedures. Last week she was
scheduled to enter into a clinical trial for a new cancer vaccine developed at
OSU but unfortunately she had an allergic reaction to the vaccine and could not
continue. Due to the vaccine trial some much needed surgery on her back was put
on hold. She is now going forward with that, and afterward she will be
looking into some other clinical trials. For those willing to do so,
please don’t forget Martha in your prayers and Rob’s particular request is that
prayers ask God to open doors for the right clinical trial for her.
- 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.
- Lumber Grading Short Course, June 29-July 3, 2015, Piketon, Ohio. A second lumber grading short course has been added this year. It will take place in Piketon at the OSU South Centers facility. The course is billed as a 4/5/1 Flex Day Short Course during which attendees can attend the usual 4-day short course, or attend a 5-day course which will include a 1-day walnut grading seminar. Those wishing can attend only the one-day course if they want. Instructor for this course will be Barry Kibbey, NHLA inspector.
- OWIN Summer Meeting, July 22-23, 2015, Marietta, Ohio. A great gathering is planned for the OWIN Summer Meeting in Marietta. Check the OFA website for 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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