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Timber Talk 11/2/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Hardwood Check Off Update
Last week, the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service announced that it had terminated proceedings concerning the proposed "Hardwood Check Off” (Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research, and Information Order). Here is a news release from the US Hardwood Lumber Industry Coalition applauding the USDA for its decision to terminate the order. USDA indicated that it had received a significant number of comments from the industry opposed to the order. In addition there were significant substantive questions about how the order was constructed and as well as suggested modifications. Following two order submissions, and with the prospect that a third version would come be coming soon, the USDA elected to terminate the actions. The order had generated a tremendous amount of feedback from the hardwood industry, much of it unfavorable in many quarters, particularly in Ohio. You can read the statement of termination from the USDA on the Regulations.gov website. Some have asked if anything can or will happen down the road with another proposal. Anyone’s guess at this point, but it would take a concerted effort by someone to muster the support of the hardwood industry for another try. It is hard to think that would take place.
CAUV Appeal Update
A quick note about the status of the Appeal to the Board of Tax Appeals against the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) by a group of landowners claiming that ODT has not correctly determined the cost of woodland clearing in its CAUV value formula for forest lands. The Tax Commissioner has filed a Motion to Dismiss the case, which you can read here. The Tax Commissioner is claiming that the Board lacks jurisdiction in the matter of the appeal, as well as claiming the appellant lacks standing in the matter before the Board.
Ohio Legislature Fixing Small Business Tax Cut.
The Ohio legislature corrected language for a small business tax cut that was passed in the last biennium budget bill that would have actually increased taxes for some businesses. The problem language is described as a drafting "glitch” that was intended to expand the small business tax deduction and set future rates at a flat 3%. Although many businesses would realize the intended cut, some would have seen their taxes increase. The language change is needed now to prevent the problem playing out in the 2015 tax filings. The bill (SB 208) passed both the House and Senate last week and will be on its way to the Governor’s desk for signature.
Safe Trucking Act of 2015 Update
The Highway Funding Bill will be in front of the U.S. House for vote the first week of November, and it appears that the Safe Trucking Act of 2015 which proposed to increase GVW on federal highways to 91,000# could be included as an amendment to the bill. Efforts have been furious over the last couple weeks to encourage Congressional members to support the bill and efforts. OFA has been involved with several coalitions pushing for the effort and has reached out to key Ohio delegation members to support the bill as an amendment. Here is a briefing on the issue from the Coalition for Transportation Productivity. Please send a note to your Congressman is you are inclined to do so supporting this legislation.
US Senate to Take up WOTUS
The US Senate is scheduled to review S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, the first week of November. If passed, the bill would require the withdrawal of the recent rules promulgated by the US EPA and Corp of Engineers revising the definition of "waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS). Here is a coalition letter from a number of national organizations asking the Senate to pass this piece of legislation.
Asian Longhorned Beetle Update from APHIS
You can see a quick update of APHIS activities fighting Asian Longhorned Beetle, in Ohio as well as Massachusetts and New York. In Ohio, A massive number of trees have been surveyed (over 1.6 million) with nearly 75,000 infested and high risk trees removed. The report does not indicate how much money has been spent to date.
Virginia Tech August 2015 Housing Commentary
You can look at the latest report on housing from Urs Buehlmann at the Virginia Tech Department of Sustainable Biomaterials and Virginia Cooperative Extension. This is a monthly report from the Department and tracks trends and the latest information on a host of key housing statistics. The report has information on current housing markets, demographics and economics and forecasts. A quick review indicates that there have not been any significant changes in indicators from recent reports. The report is worth a look.
Ballot Board Approves Fair Wage Amendment
A group called Stand Up Ohio has received approval from the Ohio Ballot Board to proceed with efforts to get a ballot issue to raise the minimum wage in Ohio up for vote in the fall of 2016. The group is proposing an increase to $10/hr. on January 1, 2017 after which it would increase $0.50/hr. each January until 2021 when it gets to $12/hr. After that, there would be inflation-adjusted increases. The group must now begin seeking 306,000 signatures to get the proposal put on the ballot.
OFA and Interest Groups Meet with EPA Director Butler
OFA and its Board received an invitation to meet with EPA Director Craig Butler, along with other invitees for a luncheon forum at Eastman and Smith Law Offices in Columbus. OFA Board members Alan Smith (sawmiller) and Cassie Ridenour (Tree Farmer) attended the forum. Director Butler gave an overview of a number of issues that EPA is dealing with, most notably water issues (WOTUS), air quality, and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Director Butler indicated that he is working hard to make the agency as business friendly as possible, helping companies meet regulatory obligations with the least amount of burden as possible. He specifically asked for us to provide him feedback on those efforts and if we see particular problems coming from EPA staff. Cassie Ridenour passed along information to Director Butler concerning the use of woodlands as a strategy to deal with Clean Power Plan objectives.

Upcoming Events

Ohio Woodland Stewards: Winter Tree Workshops, October 30, 2015, Geauga County; November 6, 2015, Butler County. The Ohio Woodland Steward Program is hosting Winter Tree Workshops in northeast and southwest Ohio to help participants identify Ohio trees in the winter. Both are full day workshops which require registration, and a fee of $35. Click on the links for registration information.

OFA Annual Meeting, March 9-10, 2015, Dublin Embassy Suites.

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