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Timber Talk 5/19/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Legislative and Policy News

HB 515 Hearing - The first hearing for HB 515, Timber Harvesting sponsored by Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield) was held in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this past week. The first hearing was for sponsor testimony only. Rep. McGregor defended his reasons for developing the legislation and then answered questions from the committee about the proposed legislation. You can read a copy of the testimony he provided at the hearing. In addition, you can read an analysis of the bill prepared by the Legislative Services Commission and see a copy of the OFA written testimony supplied to the committee. At this point, we will wait to hear what Committee Chairman Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) will schedule for follow-up hearings. No hearings are currently scheduled.

Ohio Unemployment Declines Below 6% - The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported last week that Ohio unemployment in April took a sharp decline to 5.7% from 6.1% in March. Total Ohio unemployed in April was 328,000, a reduction of 26,000 from the previous month. National unemployment for April dropped from 6.7% in March to 6.3%.

Severance Tax on "Fracking” Passes House Committee…Barely - The House Ways and Means Committee, by a vote of 11-10, narrowly passed Am. Sub. HB 375, the bill to increase the oil and gas severance tax on "fracking” wells to 2.5% and the House passed the bill the following day. The bill received mixed support from Republicans as a few elected to vote against the bill, believing that the amount set aside for local governments (15%) was too low, or oppositely, that the tax structure was more than needed to fund the regulation of the industry and that it will in effect grow government. Democrat Mike Foley of Cleveland voted against the bill as he felt that the tax was "incredibly inadequate.” The bill will now go to the Senate where there is expected to be much discussion and probable changes that will require conference committee to sort out the details once the Senate has passed its version of the bill. Governor Kasich originally recommended a higher tax rate than the one accepted in the House Bill, and he reportedly remains unhappy with the results of the House action.

House Begins Work on Bill "Freezing” Green Energy Standards - After the Senate passed SB 310 which effectively freezes the green energy standards that were originally established in 2008, the House Public Utilities has started to hear the bill, but is expected to advance it relatively quickly, with a vote expected as early as next week. Effectively, the bill would put a "stay” on the green energy requirements that were put into law in 2008 which would have required Ohio electric utilities to produce 25% of its electricity from alternative and renewable energy sources by 2025. The law required benchmark increases in production from one year to the next until the 25% level is reached. The senate bill holds the requirement at today’s standard. The law also creates a 12-member review panel that will take a look at the bill and make recommendations for new standards. If none are recommended, then the standards as outlined in the current bill will hold. As expected there are numerous proponents and opponents to the bill. Alternative energy and green advocates are firmly against changing the standards, along with a smattering of business interests , including the Ohio Manufacturers Association. One of the concerns expressed by industry is that Ohio’s electric capacity from coal burning power plants has declined sharply in recent years and some fear that if there is no way to make up some of the lost capacity through green energy, then the overall cost of electricity will rise and cost everyone more money.

Ground-Breaking Program Launched to Aid Timber Harvesters and Haulers
Some members are aware that the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC) has built and operates a fuel depot in Chillicothe, Ohio that provides reduced-price diesel to timber harvesters and haulers. The SLC has built 20 fuel depots in 7 different states since its inception in 2004. The objective of the program is to help forest products businesses in the logging and harvesting community remain competitive through purchasing diesel fuel and other products at reduced prices. The success of the system is dependent upon having active and viable wood products manufacturers in regions to purchase products. Recently, the Southern Loggers Cooperative entered into an agreement with Weyerhaeuser, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (USEFC), and the Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) to launch a program that will insure access to cost-effective diesel fuel. This news release describes the arrangement whereby Weyerhaeuser has agreed to provide a financial guarantee that will assist with the establishment of more fuel depots and will reduce the risk of depot failure in the event of mill closures and losses. The USEFC and NCIF underwrite the loans to support development of the fuel depots. This agreement may prove to be a model for other companies to enter into similar arrangements to expand the cooperative even further.

BWC News – Appellate Court Upholds Decision on BWC Overcharge for Workers Comp Premiums
The Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals upheld the 2013 ruling by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation overcharged thousands of Ohio employers for premiums as a result of premium arrangements with group sponsor programs. In essence the appellate panel agreed that employers not covered in group programs subsidized the premium rates of companies participating in the programs. The original ruling from Judge McMonagle was that the state must refund $859 million to 264,000 employers. You can read an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the ruling. The judges voted unanimously on the ruling and were particularly harsh on BWC and the group sponsor program. BWC has not yet decided on its future course of action and whether it will appeal the decision to a higher court.

International Phytosanitary Standard ISPM No. 15 Reduces Wood Borer Infestation Rates
Research has shown that the rate of infestation by wood and bark borers on wood packaging from foreign markets is reduced significantly by the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM15), adopted in the United States in 2005-2006. According to the research paper, infestation rates declined 36-52% after implementation. You can read a brief abstract of the research at the link, or you can view the entire paper if you are interested.

Asian Longhorned Beetle Update
Here is another in the long line of updates on the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). By May, nearly 1.2 million trees have been surveyed for the presence of beetle occurrence. Of those trees reviewed, 12,191 have been confirmed with ALB infestation. A total of 11,046 infested trees have been removed and another 55,976 high risk trees have been removed or treated. All of this work has been done within a 61 square mile quarantine area of Clermont County. You can see the update report here.

ECOFA Newsletter
is the June Newsletter from the East Central Ohio Forestry Association. The newsletter has information on the most recent annual banquet and auction which were huge successes. More than 100 attendees enjoyed a great banquet and raised over $3,000 from the auction with proceeds used to send students to the OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp. Congratulations to the group and thanks for such outstanding support from the group to send students to an outstanding camp.

Upcoming Events

OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 8-13, 2014, FFA Camp Muskingum Registrations are being taken and students can get information and register on-line. Scholarship money for camp is still available but may be restricted to students from specific counties or locations. Check with Gayla at the OFA office for details.

First Annual EA "Eddie” Robbins Memorial Golf Tournament, June 7, 2014, Dogwood Hills Golf Course - The first ever EA "Eddie” Robbins Memorial Golf Tournament will be held June 7, 2014 at the Dogwood Hills Golf Course in Pike County as a benefit fundraiser, the proceeds of which will be provided for scholarships to students from Pike County High Schools. This flyer has information on the tournament and is a request for sponsorships and donations to the event. Individuals and businesses can donate in different ways, including golf hole sponsorships, donations of items for an auction, or simply general donations to the event. This is a great cause in remembrance of the sudden loss of Eddie Robbins, son of Ed Robbins, last year.

Lumber Grading Short Course is Full! We have had very strong response to the Lumber Grading Short Course on June 9-12, 2014 at the Yoder Lumber Company Buckhorn sawmill and as a result, registrations can no longer be taken. However, due to the number of requests, another course is being planned for August 25-28 at the same location. If there is anyone registered for the June course that would prefer the later date please let us know as there are a few people on a waiting list for the June class that cannot attend in August.

National Tree Farm Convention, July 17-19, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA - The National Tree Farm Convention is close to Ohio this year in Pittsburgh, PA. Those thinking about taking in the convention can get information for all the activities and programs by clicking on the link. It appears that convention-goers will have the chance to enjoy downtown Pittsburgh, while concurrent sessions will covers such diverse subjects as controlling a forest policy agenda for the future, succession planning for your woodlands, reducing the impact of income taxes on forestry income, profitable timber marketing and harvesting, solar kilns and wood drying, lobbying for woodland owner programs, restoring American chestnut, golden eagles and eastern forests, the history of charcoal in eastern forests, invasive species, maple syrup production, and more. You can register on-line at this site.
OWIN Summer Meeting, July 23-24
Forest Heritage Festival, August 9, 2014, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds
Lumberman’s Outing, September 10, 2014, The Pines Golf Course (Orrville) and the Lost Birds Sporting Clays (Fredericksburg).

Paul Bunyan Show, October 3-5, 2014, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

Lumber Grading Short Course - August 25-28, 2014 - Yoder Lumber - Millersburg, Ohio

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