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Timber Talk 11/30/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, November 30, 2015

Ohio Legislative and Policy News
With the holiday week, legislative activity was abbreviated. A few notes from the week:
  • HB 394, Unemployment Compensation, Draws Fire From Opponents - HB 394, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Twp.), is a bill aimed at making changes to the state Unemployment Compensation program. Last week, it drew considerable push back from opponents of the bill, primarily labor unions and advocates for the poor. The legislation is intended to balance the state Unemployment Compensation Fund which has been operating with a deficit since the 2008 recession. Opponents of the bill told the House Insurance Committee that they believe the bill shifts the burden of balancing the budget away from employers and to workers. The bill could reduce the number of weeks of compensation eligibility from the current 26 to 20 depending on the state unemployment rate. According to an analysis by the Legislative Service Commission, the employer unemployment tax contributions would be reduced by an estimated $313 million annually from 2018 through 2025, while benefits would be reduced by an average of $475 million per year. Opponents further argue the greatest impact will be felt by the poor and those at the lower end of the pay scale who are least able to deal with reduced unemployment benefits. Due to the concerns raised, Rep Sears advised that she intends to make some changes to the bill.
  • Business Incentives Compliance Report Shows Steady Improvement - The latest Ohio Economic Development Report from Attorney General Mike DeWine shows an overall compliance rate of 78.9% for companies who received tax breaks and other incentives. The AG monitors for compliance with requirements of the development packages and this report covered projects through 2014. Of the 341 awards, 269 were in substantial compliance while 72 did not comply. The results are the best since the report was started in 2010. Development package benefits include grants, loans, and tax credits.
  • ODA Approves $6.3 Million for Farmland Preservation - The Ohio Department of Agriculture last week approved $6.3 million in funds to purchase agricultural easements on Ohio farmlands, which would require that they remain permanently in agricultural production. A total of 10 land trusts, 3 counties, 1 township, and 9 Soil and Water Conservation Districts will receive the funding to pay for the easement purchases. To be eligible for the easement award, farms must be at least 40 acres, in current ag production, enrolled under the CAUV program, demonstrate good stewardship, and must be supported by their local government.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Areas Established in Holmes and Wayne Counties - Since October 2014, 19 captive white-tailed deer have been tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Due to the severe potential for problems in Ohio’s deer herd, the state has established surveillance areas in portions of the two counties. OFA Board member Dr. Paul Mechling, retired Veterinarian from Ashtabula County also serves as a member of the Ohio Wildlife Council and has been very vocal about the state taking all necessary actions to contain the disease.
CAUV Appeal Update
Legal counsel representing forest landowners who are appealing the Tax Commissioners woodland clearing determinations provided copies of a recent memorandum from the Tax Commissioner to the Board of Tax Appeals opposing the Board’s recent determination allowing for partial consideration of the original complaint, as well as appellants reply supporting the partial reconsideration. Take a look at the concluding statements at the end of both documents to assess their content.
Florida to Develop Streamlined Tree Farm Certification Program
The American Forest Foundation (AFF), sponsors of the American Tree Farm System announced recently that it is partnering with the Florida Forest Service to "streamline” the certification process for state Tree Farmers through management planning at the landscape level where regional objectives and priorities are incorporated into a broad area plan. This is a pilot project and is being tried as a more cost effective and efficient system of management planning for landowners. AFF believes that the cost of individual management plans for Tree Farmers is a deterrent to their participation in the certification program. Time will tell if this becomes an alternative to the current approach.
Winter 2015/2016 WSRI Newsletter
Here is the Winter 2015/2016 Newsletter of the Wood Supply Research Institute. The Ohio Logging Standards Council is a member of WSRI. The newsletter has information on a new project starting to do a trucking analysis from woods to mill and back, announced an RFP for a project on comparing pay and benefits for loggers and truckers with the competition, an update on the replacement of Executive Director Jim Fendig who is retiring in 2016, information on the Facebook page update, the completed fuel consumption study for logging operations, trade publication public service ads requesting participation in WSRI projects, and a brief explanation of the project selection process. Take a quick look at the newsletter.
Southern Ohio Forestland Association (SOFA) December 2015 Newsletter
Here is the latest SOFA newsletter with information on the latest November general meeting, a discussion on bats in the U.S., a brief piece on being a member of the Tree Farm System, an interesting article on the creation of the "coywolf” – a mix of coyotes and wolves, and other upcoming events and activities.

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