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Timber Talk 12/16/13

Posted By John Dorka, Monday, December 16, 2013

Statehouse News
Legislative Plans for 2014 Session -
Legislative work for 2013 is nearly complete with only a very minor end-of-the-year slate of legislative hearings now taking place at the statehouse. House Speaker Batchelder (R-Medina) said last week that when the House returns in January, its focus will be on the biennial Capital Budget, infrastructure, the oil and gas severance tax, and health care legislation. He also advised that there will be work on a Mid-Biennium Review budget for 2014, a standard action that makes needed changes and revisions to the biennium budget passed last year. As far as issues critically relevant to forestry and the forest products industry in Ohio, we hear rumblings about discussions on truck regulations on local roads as well as timber trespass legislation. We will keep you apprised of anything that comes along, especially as we prepare for the annual meeting and legislative reception scheduled in March.

State Energy Legislation - Last week, the Senate Public Utilities Committee decided to cancel a vote on SB 58 which would re-write renewable energy standards for Ohio. This week the House Public Utilities Committee, under Chairman Peter Stautberg (R-Cincinnati) said that energy efficiency standards in Ohio still need to be addressed. At its last meeting of the year, he said that the legislature needs to do something to modify current standards for energy efficiency, but the jury is out on what should be done. More review is needed. One of his concerns is that he believes that the general public is not aware of energy efficiency standards and how costs affect them. He believes that the public in general does not understand that it is they who are footing energy efficiency bills. The Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy is a group that believes the current energy efficiency standards have been successful and are leading to lower prices for the consumer.

Ohio "Move Over” Law Passed - SB 137, Maintenance Vehicles, requires motor vehicle operators to take certain actions when approaching construction, maintenance, and public utility commission vehicles that are parked along the roadside with flashing or oscillating lights. Drivers must slow down and if possible, move over into another lane until passing the vehicles. Previously, this action was required only when approaching police and other emergency vehicles.

Lawmakers Form Lake Erie Caucus - Two members of the Ohio Senate, Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) announced the formation of a bi-partisan and bicameral caucus to focus on issues important to the Lake Erie region of Ohio. The caucus is expected to hold its first meeting next month. Economic and environmental issues are expected to be areas of focus in the near term.

Federal Legislation
Farm Bill Activity - The Farm Bill has been in Congressional Conference Committee of late with Senate and House conferees continuing to work to hammer out a 5-year Farm Bill renewal that all can live with. That goal has been extremely difficult to achieve. Many remember that the biggest sticking point in efforts earlier this year is that the House passed a Farm Bill without the inclusion of a "food stamp” program, which accounts for 80% of Farm Bill dollars. Although it now appears that the conference committee will not reach agreement before the end of the year, those watching closely indicate that the conferees may be getting close to agreement on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) as well as on commodity support payments. A notable issue important to forestry interests is that there had been action to include the language from the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (logging roads and NPDES permitting) in the Farm Bill. The administration has been trying to amend the bill to give EPA new authority over logging roads. In effect that would make the bill meaningless to our interests. The forestry community needs to stay apprised of this action as how this issue plays out could have profound effect on timber harvest activities across the country.

Truck News

  • Recently there was a hearing in front of the House Small Business Committee to review the Hours of Service (HOS) rules for motor carriers, administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA maintains that the HOS rule is having minimal impact on commercial carriers. Members of the committee, however, strongly questioned FMCSA Director Anne Ferro if this was the case, based on information from the American Transportation Research Institute (AMRI) which indicates that the HOS rule has caused significant impacts on carriers, particularly on their productivity and "bottom line” as well as on the drivers’ and the publics’ safety.
  • In other truck news, a group of commercial truck interests are calling for more highway funding to increase maintenance and decrease congestion on the nation’s highways, as both hurt the economy and lead to lower productivity. Attendees at a highway users conference are calling on Congress to take action to provide more revenues to address the nation’s highway infrastructure problems.
  • ATRI is also taking issue with widely reported information that heavy-truck reported accidents across the country is on the rise. ATRI says that there in fact was an increase in fatalities from heavy trucks during the period 2009-2011. However, it appears that the major increase was from accidents involving "medium-duty trucks” and not commercial tractor-trailers. In addition, ATRI pointed out that drivers of heavy duty trucks are required to obtain CDLs while those driving lighter trucks do not.

Support Letter for Conservation Easement Incentive Act (HR 2807) - Recently we reported that OFA had co-signed a letter of support for HR 2807 which would make permanent the tax incentive for forest landowners who donate their land for conservation easements. The letter of support is to encourage other members of the House of Representatives to join the current co-sponsors on the bill. The letter indicates 149 co-sponsors but that list has grown to 162, including 69 Republicans and 93 Democrats. Co-sponsors from Ohio’s delegation includes Cong. Bob Latta (R-OH5), Cong. Bill Johnson (R-OH6), Cong. March Kaptur (D-OH9) and Cong. Michael Turner (R-OH10). Here is information on Here is a copy of the letter to Congress and includes the names of the supporting associations, organizations, and companies.

OFA Sawmill Visits
I had the opportunity to make several sawmill visits last week with OFA First Vice-President Rob McCarthy. Many thanks to all who graciously offered a few minutes to stop and talk about how things are going in the business. Visits took place at Advanced Forest Products, Gross Lumber, Holmes Wheel Shop, McKay Hardwoods, Mohawk Lumber, RM Lumber, Stutzman Lumber, Trico Enterprises, Triple T Lumber, and Troyer Lumber.

Lumber Prices Surge as Sawmills Run Short
From an article on Woodworking Network and provided by Hardwood Publishing, worldwide demand for hardwood lumber has risen faster than supply, pushing up prices. U.S. hardwood lumber exports set monthly records for 7 consecutive months through August, 2013. Through August, 2013 exports totaled 953 MMB, an increase of 7% from the same period in 2012. Indications are that shipments in September and October continued the rise.

Latest Asian Longhorned Beetle Action News
is the latest media report on actions to eradicate Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) in Clermont County. The number of trees surveyed for ALB is approaching 1 million. More than 10,000 confirmed infested trees have been removed while nearly another 21,000 high risk host trees have been removed. Another 13,000 high-risk host trees have been treated. The report does not provide information on the cost of these actions.

Supreme Court Hears Case on EPA Rule on Coal
Last week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on a case involving EPA authority on whether it exceeded its authority with a cross-state air pollution rule it issued in 2011. The court case and ruling could significantly affect Ohio and a number of other states that still burn a significant amount of coal to produce electricity. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the EPA rule, some believe that it will hurt Ohio coal production even more than it has been in recent years. Currently Ohio gets 78% of its electric energy from burning coal. A large number of Midwestern states including all that border on Ohio have a significant interest in the ruling. You can read a Dayton Daily news article on the court case.

ECOFA December Newsletter
is the December Newsletter of the East Central Ohio Forestry Association. It contains information on the December 4 Board and General meetings which featured guest speaker Dr. Diane Miller from the OSU Dept. of Horticulture and Crop Science at OARDC who spoke on apple tree varieties; increasing bobcat sightings in Ohio; Thousand Cankers Disease of Walnut; and upcoming meetings and events.

2014 OFA Annual Meeting, March 5-6 at the Columbus Sheraton Hotel on Capital Square
Plans continue for the annual meeting. Recently, the Ohio Society of American Foresters (OSAF) and the Ohio Chapter of the Association of Consulting Foresters have offered sponsorships of the Legislative Reception on Wednesday, March 5 at the Statehouse. OSAF has also indicated its interest in holding its annual meeting that day in conjunction with OFA. We are working with OSAF staff to make arrangements for that portion of the meeting.

  • Sponsorships/Exhibitors - Those companies and individuals wishing to sponsor and or exhibit at the Annual Meeting can contact Gayla at 614-497-9580, ext. 5;
  • OFA Awards Nominations - Each year OFA recognizes significant contributions from those supporting various aspects of forestry and the forest industry in Ohio at the annual awards luncheon. If you know someone who deserves recognition, please don’t hesitate to make a nomination. Forms can be acquired at the OFA website. It doesn’t take long to fill out the nomination and no doubt you know people who have served us well in their daily tasks and efforts.

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