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Timber Talk 3/23/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, March 23, 2015

Hardwood Check Off News
We have reported that the Hardwood Check Off Order as proposed by the USDA appears still in play. Many thought that there was going to be no further action with the order following the comment period a year ago when a majority of comments received opposed the order. We have since learned that the order is still being considered and is reportedly being rewritten by USDA at this point with possible release of a new version at some point in the near future. The Blue Ribbon Committee of some hardwood industry companies that initiated the order has extended for another year the required bonding to cover process costs. OFA is currently considering taking a position on the order and the Executive Committee is currently reviewing potential action.

Farm and Dairy Article on Hardwood Check Off
On news of the check off, Farm and Dairy magazine had an article last about the Hardwood Check Off proposal. Writer Brian Lisik had caught wind of the proposal and contacted OFA for more information. The article indicates that OFA is considering taking a position on the proposal.

Ohio Legislative and Policy News

Ohio Senate Approved Amended Highway Budget; Increases Speed Limit to 75 MPH for Cars and Trucks on Selected Rural Highways. A unanimous Senate last week approved 2-year funding for highways (HB 53) and in the process, approved an amendment that would increase speed limits for cars and trucks on selected rural highways. The bill is different than the House-passed version and as a result, a conference committee between both chambers will have to iron out differences. Speaker Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) expressed concern with the speed limit increase and indicated he believes the issue needs more discussion before final approval.

House and Senate Agree to Toxic Algae Compromise. The House and Senate have been working out differences in approach to dealing with toxic algae issues in the state between two separate bills (SB 1 and HB 61) and it appears that they have reached agreement for the most part. There are a number of provisions that relate to manure spreading by farmers, dumping dredge material in Lake Erie, and the regulations of enforcing the provisions. Still to be fully addressed is how the proposed manure spreading ban by farmers would be enforced.

CAUV Rate Concerns Continue. The Ohio Department of Taxation continues to field comments and concerns about escalating CAUV rates and to work with interested parties on rates for 2015. The combination of rising commodity prices over the last several years with low interest and capitalization rates have created an unusual combination of circumstances leading to rising agricultural property tax valuations. OFA continues to work with the Ohio Farm Bureau and other interests to get information to the Department of Taxation (DoT)as it works its way through the issue. A number of interests would like to see the current formula to determine woodland values reformed while DoT wants to stay the course with current formula, albeit with revised inputs.

Oil and Gas Bill (HB 8) Gets House Approval; Limits Impact on ODNR Lands. A unanimous House approved oil and gas legislation last week preventing "unitization” of oil and gas permits on state parks and prohibits surface impacts to state forests from nearby drilling. The bill streamlines the process for a number of oil and gas developments in Ohio which the legislature argues will encourage more energy development and a stronger energy portfolio in Ohio.

ODNR to Replace Buckeye Lake Dam. Some may have heard that the dam at Buckeye Lake has serious structural problems and may be in imminent danger of catastrophic failure, according to a Corps of Engineers report. Buckeye Lake was built for now-defunct canal water supply purposes in the 19th century and not for current recreational and personal uses. In addition, over the years, more than 150 homes have been built on the dam leading to severe structural issues. Governor Kasich announced last week that ODNR would immediately begin work to replace the dam. One cost estimate to replace the dam was placed at $150 million.

Senate to Broadcast Budget Hearings for the First Time. It was announced that the Ohio Senate will broadcast biennial budget hearings in the Finance Committee on the OhioChannel. This is the first time something like this has been done in the Ohio legislature. Those wishing to listen to budget hearings can now do so easily on-line. (Note to the faint of heart - It has occasionally been said that "two things you never want to see get made are hot dogs and laws.” It now appears that you can easily see one of the two on-line. For all I know, you can probably see hot dogs being made on-line too, but I haven’t looked for that and don’t intend to.)

OFA Supports Funding for the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program. OFA agreed to co-sign a national letter of support for funding for the the FIA program. FIA conducts statewide forest inventory assessments and has done so for more than 60 years. The information is invaluable for forestry and forest products industry assessments of statewide forest resources. The current budget proposal is for a healthy increase in FIA funding. It is critical that FIA continue to provide the valuable forest inventory data service that it has for such a long time.

USDA Grants Special Funding for Forest Management on SE Ohio public and private woodlands
The USDA announced last week that the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with the ODNR Division of Forestry to fund $1.3 million of woodland improvement practices on public and private lands in 17 SE Ohio counties. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) will be used to fund activities on private lands, which will include practices to promote oak regeneration and invasive species control. Additional management practices are planned for the Wayne National Forest. Funding for the project comes from 2014 Farm Bill authority. Here is a USDA News Release on the proposed project.

Register for Tree Farm Webinar on Timber Tax for 2014
U.S. Forest Service Timber Tax Specialist Linda Wang will host a webinar on March 27 at 2 pm EDT to discuss the "twists and turns” of timber taxes. The webinar could be especially helpful for those who have never had to negotiate Form T of federal tax returns. Those wishing to participate on the free webinar can do so by registering here. Tree Farm advises that the webinar will be available for downloading later at the Tree Farm website.

ECOFA April Newsletter
Here is the April 2015 Newsletter for the East Central Ohio Forestry Association.  The report has a summary of the recent Board and General Membership meeting on March 4 at the public library in Dover.  The report also has information about upcoming events and activities, as well as other forestry information.  

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