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Timber Talk 6/2/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, June 2, 2014

Support Changes in Truck Weight Provisions!
We reported previously that the current version of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill has 3 specific provisions relating to truck weigh exceptions in the states of Idaho, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. Even though these do not apply to Ohio, the precedent they would establish for national changes in truck weigh reform could be a huge help commercial hauling interests in the forest products industry. The bill is expected to come before the full House of Representatives for a vote the week of June 9. As a result, your help with urging your Congressman to vote for the bill is essential. You can contact your Congressman very simply on-line by sending an electronic letter in support of maintaining the truck weight provisions in the bill. Click here on the American Forest and Paper Association Congressional support site to send a letter in support of the bill. It is easy to do and should only take a few minutes. Please be aware that Congress prefers electronic mail to "snail” mail and this type of communication produces better results. Please send your comments now!

What is EPA Doing With Clean Water Act Rules?
You have probably heard news lately about EPA efforts to change Clean Water Act rules on what use to be "navigable” waters of the U.S. In essence according to the proposed rule that was published by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers expands the definition of "Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act and gives the agencies’ jurisdiction over virtually all water areas with a hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters. This could include virtually any area transporting or holding water, including intermittent streams and ditches. It could impact forestry operations. Previously, navigable waters were interpreted to have "continuous” flow, but the rule change could affect areas miles from navigable streams and are dry for portions of the year. Many believe that the proposed rule flies in the fact of Supreme Court rulings on wetlands and whether Clean Water Act permits were required before any actions affecting them could be taken. If the rule is passed, it could have a profound impact on farming and forestry operations around the country. One has to wonder why the EPA did not seriously fight the silvicultural exemption of the CWA for logging roads in the case that went to the Supreme Court in the last two years. It appears that this new rule could possibly make that ruling irrelevant. More than half the members of the House of Representatives, including 11 from Ohio, sent a letter to the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers expressing major concerns with the proposed rule and asking that the rule be pulled back. We’ll see how the battle progresses.

Legislative and Policy News
The Ohio Legislature is wrapping up business and is essentially done with session work after the week of June 2.

SB 310, Green Energy Bill, Passes House - Last week, the contentious SB 310, the bill freezing the green energy and efficiency standards at current levels was passed by the House Public Utilities Committee on Tuesday and then passed by the full House on Wednesday. The bill passed the committee quickly although there were numerous to offer amendments from both sides of the aisle. In addition to freezing the standards at current levels, the bill also eliminates the requirement that half of the renewable energy amount must come from Ohio sources, a requirement which some legislators thought was unconstitutional. Interestingly, one of the most vocal opponents to the process was Rep. Mike Duffy (R-Worthington) who blasted the Chairman for his handling of amendments and that due to the large number, he believed most of the committee members really were not familiar enough with the bill to vote one way or the other. After passing the House, the bill is due to go to Governor Kasich for signature. In spite of calls from some opponents and from dozens of House Democrats urging him to veto the measure, he says he will sign the bill for passage. The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based free market think tank, is reporting that Ohio is the first state to reverse its renewable energy law. At the same time, a number of green energy companies, many that manufacture and fabricate wind turbines in Ohio say that the law change will force them to reconsider business in Ohio and may prompt their moving to other states friendlier to green energy.

Senate Finance Committee Starts Work on HB 5, Municipal Tax Collections - A bill that has been years in the making and which has passed the House is one dealing with an overhaul of the Municipal Tax code, adding uniformity to collections among hundreds of Ohio municipalities, and attempting to add order to a system described by some as one of the worst in the country. The bill currently has the general support of the business community but is opposed by local governments through the Ohio Municipal League. Businesses with facilities in different municipalities have long complained about the lack of tax collection uniformity and the added compliance burden with meeting so many different collection approaches. Among changes in the bill are the establishment of a uniform tax base for cities; a standard 5-year period for net operating loss carry-forwards; addresses how businesses can apportion and allocate their net profits for filing purposes; and increases the 'casual entrant' period, or the time frame during which an individual may work in a city without incurring tax liabilities there, from 12 to 20 days per year. Municipalities are opposed to the changes in the bill, especially the 5-year NOL carryover, which they claim will cost them much lost tax revenue. It appears that the Finance Committee will need a number of hearings to get through a long list of questions from interested parties on the bill provisions.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Starts Hearings on House Passed "Fracking” Severance Tax Bill (HB 375) - Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Huffman(R-Lima) presented the bill to the Senate Ways & Means Committee that cleared the House earlier this month, saying it would set an appropriate tax on horizontally fractured oil and gas wells to adequately fund regulatory and cleanup initiatives, as well as provide funding for an across-the-board personal income tax cut. It sets a severance tax rate of 2.5% on gross receipts for horizontally fractured wells for gas severed Oct. 1, 2014. The rate for vertical drillers will be set at $0.10 per barrel of oil and 1.5 cents per MCF of natural gas. There would be a $10 million blanket exemption of horizontal wells drilled after 10/1/2013. Base receipts from the first sale of oil or gas would be excluded from the Commercial Activity Tax if the CAT taxpayer is subject to the personal income tax on the income from that sale. There is also a nonrefundable income tax credit for an individual landowner or pass-through entity owner who holds a royalty interest in the well. The credit is equal to the proportion of the severance tax paid by the well’s owner, up to 12.5%. The first $21 million of tax revenue generated annually would go to ODNR to support regulatory functions, with some going for the idle and orphan well program and for geological mapping. After the ODNR distribution, 17.5% of the proceeds goes to local governments to be used for road and bridge repair and permanent improvements. The final amount is meant to offset personal income tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

HR 493, MBR Workers Compensation, Passes Senate Unanimously - A bill that makes Ohio’s Workers Compensation Program a prospective rating program instead of a retrospective was passed by the Senate last week in late session work and is expected to go to the Governor for approval. The bill will allow employers to pay BWC premiums in monthly installments with the potential for a "true up” at the end of the premium year. It also eliminates employer premium deposits and actuarial reports for self-insure employers.

SB 272, Ohio Maple Syrup Products Month, Unanimously Passes Senate - The Senate passed legislation that designates March as Maple Syrup Products Month in Ohio.

SB 192, Invasive Plants, Passes Senate - SB 192 grants the Ohio Department of Agriculture exclusive authority to regulate invasive plants in Ohio. It passed the Senate after minor changes from the House and is headed to the Governor for signature.

Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Reports Premium Costs for ACA plans Will Rise in 2015 - ODI is reporting that health plans though the federal Health Insurance Marketplace are expected to see another rise in 2015. ODI reports 16 companies have filed to sell plans through the federal exchange, and on the average, premiums in 2015 are expected to be $374/month, a nearly 13% increase over the $332/month average in 2014. Eight companies have filed for the small group market and average premiums will be $447/month for that market. ODI is also reporting that proposed company premiums for individual exchange plans range from $316 and $528 a month, while those for the small group market fall between $348 and $537. ODI says that these figures do not take into account the federal subsidies available to low income individuals through the exchange. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 85% of the 154,668 Ohioans who enrolled in coverage through the health insurance marketplace during the first period of open enrollment received financial assistance.

House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee Members Tour Glatfelter Harvests - Last week, Glatfelter hosted several members of the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee on a tour of timber harvest sites in southern Ohio. Included from the Committee was Chairman Dave Hall (R-Millersburg), Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) and Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) and Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) was represented by his aide. The committee had a great opportunity to visit a Cut-to-Length harvest system on a Redoutey Logging harvest and then visited a harvest site on state forest land. The visit was well-timed as HB 515, Timber Harvesting is pending in front of the committee.

E. B. Miller Memorial Scholarship Award Winner
The OFA Foundation Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Mitchell Beaverson from Portage, Ohio is the winner of the E.B. Miller Memorial Scholarship for 2014. Mitchell will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall and entering the Construction Management curriculum in preparation for starting his own custom wood manufacturing business. He is already doing custom wood working as he enters college but has plans to start his own secondary manufacturing business upon graduation. Congratulations to Mitch and the best of luck with his college plans.

See the Truth About Trees DVD on the OFA Website
The Hardwood Forest Foundation, a non-profit affiliated with the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) recently produced a video for kids that nicely explains where wood products comes from. OFA has been given permission to post the video on our website and you can view it here. The video is about 13 and a half minutes and can easily be watched by kids in classroom settings or in groups of various sizes. OFA has requested copies of the DVD along with training kits that we would like to get distributed to targeted members of the association and affiliated groups. We hope that some of our members will have the opportunity and desire to get the videos shown to school and youth groups. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please let us know and we will be glad to get one for you at no cost.

Are We Seeing a Surge in More Timber Framed Buildings?
It may be too early to tell if there if a significant trend has started, but it certainly seems like there are more and more reports of both the interest in and the construction of larger timber-framed buildings. Here is another one of those articles. The William Perkin High School in London recently became the United Kingdom’s largest timber building, being built in a very short time and under less than ideal conditions. The building was sourced with prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam panels. The architects felt that the wood offered numerous benefits for current construction and possible future remodeling. The article is an interesting read and also includes pictures of wood for interior finish.

Upcoming Events:

    • OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 8-13, 2014, FFA Camp Muskingum. Registrations are still 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. The attached 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. Note the deadline on the flyer for making donations. This is a great cause in remembrance of the sudden loss of Eddie Robbins, son of Ed Robbins, last year.
    • Lumber Grading Short Course, June 9-12, 2014. The short course is full! However, due to the demand for the class, another has been scheduled for August 25. See below for information on that class.
    • Wyandot SWCD Forestry Clinic, June 28, 2014, Upper Sandusky. The Northwest Ohio Loggers Chapter is working with the Wyandot SWCD to sponsor a forestry field day in Upper Sandusky. The event will cover a number of woodland management topics including timber sales and timber stand improvement, tree felling, invasive species, and a portable sawmill demonstration. See the flyer for more information and also see coming events on the OFA website.
    • CSAW Level 1 Chainsaw Training and BMP Classes Scheduled for July. Due to the demand for classes, we have scheduled an additional series of Master Logger training for July 17 and 18 at Scioto Trail State Forest. The regular schedule includes spring and fall classes. Those wishing to get new or updated certification training can do so in July. You can now register for the classes on the OFA website.
    • 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 Pittsburg, 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- Tour of the Portsmouth Floodwall Murals, Reception at the Portsmouth Brewing Company, Golf outing at The Elks Country Club and Clay Shoot at Anderson's Sporting Clays. Registration will be available soon. Those interested in sponsoring should contact Gayla at OFA.
    • Forest Heritage Festival, August 9, 2014, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds.
    • Lumber Grading Short Course, August 25-28, 2014. A second short course has been scheduled for later in the summer at the same location, Yoder Lumber Co., Inc. Buckhorn Sawmill. People have already started registering and you can do so on-line by following the link.
    • 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.

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