OFA 2016 Year in Review
As we close out 2016, and my first 11 months as OFA Executive Director, I thought I would use this week’s TimberTalk as a place to review the past year and update our membership on what we have done and where we are headed. In this writing, I will focus on the things we were, are, or will be involved in. In the coming weeks, I will be putting together a more detailed report for the membership that will include more business detail such as; the financial standing of the Ohio Forestry Association, Inc. and the Ohio Forestry Association Foundation; membership numbers; numbers of people trained; numbers of Master Logging Companies; attendance numbers for events such as the Paul Bunyan Show and the Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp; etc.
OFA Staff - 2016 was a year of change for OFA from a staffing standpoint. Executive Director, John Dorka, was looking to retire, or at least slow down a little, and I was looking for a new career opportunity after WestRock closed the paper mill in Coshocton, Ohio where I had been employed for 38 years. At about the same time that I was brought on as the new executive Director, Katie Wheeler stepped away from managing our Master Logging Company program to take a full time job elsewhere. John Dorka agreed then to stay on with OFA on a part time basis to manage the Master Logging Company program, and stay involved in some other projects that were near to his heart. It has been a big benefit to myself and the Association to still have John’s knowledge and expertise on board. Gayla Fleming is still our key person with our association management company, and John and I would both tell you that things run smoothly because of her and the rest of the Offinger Management Company staff. We are not anticipating any staff changes for 2017.
Legislative Issues - The biggest issue that we have been involved with this year is that of high woodland property tax rates. We have been tackling this issue on a couple fronts. One is by working to get the Ohio Department of Tax Equalization to update the numbers in their Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) formulas which would significantly lower woodland tax rates. We are working directly with the Department of Tax Equalization, as well as working with potential legislation to force this issue. The other front we are working on concerns the Ohio Forest Tax Law (OFTL). We are partnering with the Ohio Division of Forestry to try to get rule changes and legislative changes to OFTL that will benefit current landowners in the program, and encourage others to join it. We feel that we are making headway on both fronts, but it continues to be a slow process.
Two other areas of concern that we will be spending more energy on in 2017 is; trucking issues on the township and county levels, as we see more weight limits and other restrictions being put on roadways, and; municipal timber harvesting restrictions. Look for more info on these topics as we move forward into 2017.
At this time, no one has a clear vision on what will change, as it relates to our industry, with the major political changes in Washington, DC. Someone who has a better handle on this than most though, is Deb Hawkinson of the Forest Resource Association (FRA), based in Washington, DC, and she will be the keynote speaker at the OFA Annual Meeting March 1-2, 2017. She will be giving us the scoop on what we could expect to see coming from the top down in the coming years. Make sure that you are there to hear her professional insights.
Master Logging Company Program – This program remains strong, with new companies coming on board seemingly every month. One of the strongest areas of the program is our Chainsaw Safety Awareness that Works (CSAW)training.We have been receiving requests for, and providing training for, a wide diversity of groups outside of the traditional logging companies. Included this year were ; fire departments, National Park Service employees, county engineer departments,highway crews, and many others. We even submitted a proposal to train Navy Seabees in Virginia Beach. This proposal is currently on hold by the Navy, but we are hopeful for the possibility of moving our training beyond the state’s boundaries. This increase in training requests has required that we look at increasing our approved trainer list. We are in the process now of doing this. We are also continuing to look at ways to streamline the data management of this program, as well as build on our other logger training opportunities.
Tree Farm Program - OFA continues to be a sponsor of the Ohio Tree Fam Program, along with the Ohio Division of Forestry. We provide accounting services for their organization, assist with their meeting scheduling, sit on their Tree Farm Committee, and contribute articles for the Ohio Woodland Journal. We enjoy having the Tree Farm Program as a large part of our annual OFA winter meeting and running the education activities at the Paul Bunyan Show. These are just a few of the areas that our two groups work together in a relationship that I feel is a win-win for everyone.
Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp – The camp committee made up of Jeremy Scherf, Marne Titchenell, Ryan Waid, and Emilee Hardesty, continue to do great things with our signature camp. Numbers of campers were up this year over last, which we always like. The students were treated to the opportunity to visit an active logging job this year and talk with the loggers. A record amount of college scholarship money was also awarded this year. The committee is beginning preparations for the 2017 camp season. Thank you to everyone in our association and the industry that help keep this camp being the great educational outreach program that it has become.
The Ohio Forestry Association Foundation (OFAF) - The OFAF continues to support the educational aspects of the Ohio Forestry Associations activities. Tree Farm and Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp are two of the things that fall under their umbrella. They also provide a scholarship for college to a deserving student. This year a $2000 scholarship was awarded to Mitchell Beaverson, a multiple year awardee. OFAF also awarded a $500 college scholarship to a Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp Student. These scholarships will continue to be a focal point in the future for OFAF.
Paul Bunyan Show - This past October’s Paul Bunyan Show was one to remember for the ages….because the weather was fantastic for a change! This lead to the highest attendance at the show in 10 years. The show was also a success for the exhibitors from all accounts, and that makes it a success for the Ohio Forestry Association. I would like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers that help make this show successful. It could not be done without you!
Wood Markets in Ohio - We are currently engaged with entrepreneurs that are trying to get different wood fiber consuming projects up and running here in Ohio, to take advantage of the supply of in-woods and residual fiber that was made available after the closing of the paper mill in Coshocton one year ago. We will continue to assist them however we can to benefit OFA’s industry members, forest land owners, and the Ohio forest products industry in general.
TimberTalk Newsletter - This newsletter was started several years ago by my predecessor, John Dorka, as a way to keep the Board informed of weekly happenings with the association. It quickly evolved into a weekly newsletter to the membership to keep you up to date on not only what the OFA staff is working on, but on all things dealing with the forest products industry. I am trying to continue the high bar that John set on this. Please feel free to let me know if the information that I include is worthwhile, not what you want to see, or if you would like to contribute something.
Board of Directors - The Ohio Forestry Association, Inc., and the Ohio Forestry Association Foundation, are both blessed with strong, active Boards of Directors. We will be bringing a few new faces onto the OFA, Inc. Board at the Annual Meeting in March, as a few of them drop off the Board due to term limits. Please feel free to contact the Board members that you know to address any issues. I would like to thank the Board for the support that they have given me in my first year. For giving me enough rope to swing freely, but not so much that I hang myself.
In closing, I would like to say that there are numerous other activities that OFA is involved with, but I don’t have space to write a book. From chainsaw training at the Farm Science Review, to working on Industry Credentials with the Ohio Department of Education. From partnering with Yoder Lumber, NHLA, and the OSU South Centers to provide Lumber Grading Short Courses, to working on various committees throughout the state and industry. We enjoy the working relationship that we have with all our partners in the realm of the forest products industry, and conservation education. We appreciate the support from you, the membership of OFA, and we continually strive to bring value to your membership. We have an open door and open ear policy. Please do not hesitate to contact myself, John Dorka, or Gayla Fleming if you have any questions or concerns. 2016 was a good year. May 2017 be even better.