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Weekly News 3.18.13

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 22, 2013
Ohio Forestry Association

Weekly News 3.18.13
In this issue:

  • Ohio Legislative News
    • Ohio Highways GVW revision - We had reported earlier that the House had included a provision in the ODOT budget to increase commercial truck Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) to 90,000# from the current 80,000#. Once the budget got to the Senate, there was considerable push-back from a number of interests to kill that amendment as well as concerns from both sides of the aisle about the measure. As a result, Transportation Committee Chairwoman Gayle Manning (R- North Ridgeville) decided to drop the provision from the current bill and deal with it in separate stand-alone legislation. Toward the end of the week, there was discussion about developing stand-alone legislation by Rep. Watchmann (R-Napoleon) but as of this writing, there is no news to report.
    • Sales Tax Proposal - The Kasich administration proposal to revise state sales taxes, which would decline in some cases but would be added to a host of currently untaxed services, continues to get a push-back from many sources. Recently, Ohio newspapers have been opposed to new taxes proposed on advertising would hit the struggling newspaper industry at a time it does not need it. In addition, late last week, top Republican legislative leaders asked for interested parties to weigh in on Governor Kasich’s tax overhaul proposals. Opposition from the industries affected by the severance and sales tax proposals have far outstripped testimony from businesses that favor the tax plan. Speaker Batchelder is asking businesses to weigh in on the proposal and to come forward with other ideas if the current proposal does not appear to be good for small businesses.
    • Ohio Manufacturing Month (HB 77) - This bill designates October as "Manufacturing Month” and is intended to educate Ohioans about the value of manufacturing to the state and to improve the perception of manufacturing as a career for young people. Interestingly, OFA is working to create the Ohio Forest Products Awareness Week for the first week in October, prior to the Paul Bunyan Show. Sen. Balderson (R-Zanesville) has agreed to introduce legislation to create the week. In so doing, both pieces of legislation should complement one another with promoting forest product manufacturing in Ohio.
    • Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission Activity - In the latest action from the commission, members are asking Ohio citizens for their input on possible revisions to the Ohio Constitution. To that end, the commission added a website that allows the public to provide ideas and recommendations. The Commission took action to structure itself into 4 standing committees that will handle administrative business and 8 subject committees on different topics of the constitution. The subjects include: Bill of Rights & Voting Rights; Legislative Branch; Education, Public Institutions & Miscellaneous; Executive Branch; Judicial Branch; Local Government; Finance, Taxation & Economic Development; and Constitutional Revisions.
    • Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA) of 2013 - HR 612 - Efforts to increase GVW on federal highways are revving up once again with the introduction of HR 612, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013. Introducing sponsors are Rep. Mike Michaud (R-ME) and Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). The bill is in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH-7)is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee and is being requested to consider becoming a sponsor. Any support from OFA members in Rep. Gibbs district willing to seek support on this bill will be appreciated. Contact OFA for information on the bill.
  • Workers’ Compensation News - CareWorks Consultants, Inc. (CCI), the administrator of OFA’s Group Safety Program recently provided some updates on Worker Compensation activities with the information found here. There is a news release on the Group Retrospective Rating Program which offers a variation to traditional group programs that could result in greater savings for eligible employers. There are variable risks involved and employers need to understand what those are before entering the program. The news release offers a nice summary of the program. There is also a news release announcing approaching deadlines for participation in a number of programs under the Destination: Excellence Program Banner. There are 5 programs discussed with variable deadline dates for each. You can see those in the news release. Finally, CCI’s partner RiskControl 360 has provided a 2-page safety sheet on Lockout-Tagout Safety procedures for hazardous energy sources. In other related Workers Compensation news, the Ohio Supreme Court reconfirmed a 2007 ruling that an injured worker is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even though the person was fired for a rules violation that caused the injury.
  • Notes from the Hardwood Leader - The following are notes from the April, 2013 edition of the Hardwood Leader, from Hardwood Publishing, Inc.
    • In spite of better business for 2013, the year will pose difficulties for hardwood businesses. Notably, the Affordable Care Act with all of the ongoing uncertainties and challenges will cause many to take a very cautious view of business and will restrain hiring in the foreseeable future.
    • Housing supply has tightened to 4.2 months (4.92 million units in January). This is the lowest it’s been since April 2005. Housing prices are expected to jump 8% in 2013, according to Bank of America.
    • Hardwood lumber imports are steadily rising with Canadian imports continuing a 4-year climb from major lows in 2009. January 2013 imports were the strongest since 2008 with total volume up 29% since the 30-year low set in January 2010.
    • Lumber exports in January, 2013 set an all-time record for January with 113 million BF. This was double the low-point in January 2009. It was also 20% higher than one month earlier (December 2012). Red oak exports were at an 8 and a half year high, while poplar exports were the highest on record.
    • Due to improving housing conditions and financing conditions, domestic wood furniture sales are expected to increase throughout the year.
    • Asian demand for Ash is increasing with monthly Ash exports going over 10 MMBF in 2012. Exports to Asian and Middle East markets should continue to grow through 2013.
    • Hard maple prices are expected to rise due to increased demand.
    • The outlook for Red oak is good with unmet demand in flooring and residential and commercial construction will push demand for cabinet, stair, and architectural millwork.
    • Poplar is expected to continue strong with increasing demand from domestic moulding and millwork producers, furniture manufacturers and distribution yards.
    • US residential furniture factory shipments were up 5% in December 2012 to a 6-month high of $1.9 billion.
    • With the increase in the payroll tax for consumers starting on January 1, 2013, consumer spending on furniture is expected to be delayed by nearly 1 in 4 Americans according to the National Retail Federation.
    • Winter home building is up considerably from previous winters, with housing starts this winter 21% higher than 2011-2012 and 36% higher than 2010-2011.
    • Single family new home sales jumped 15.6% in January. Unfortunately, median prices fell 9% with a shift to lower priced units.
    • Mortgage rates have started inching up with March 14 rates the highest point in 7 months. A survey of analysts and mortgage brokers shows that they believe mortgage rates will continue going up at least until the stock market pulls back.
    • Durable wood products manufacturing employment in February 2013 reached its highest level since September 2009.
    • Total non-farm, private, and manufacturing employment shot up in February, well above the same month in 2012 indicating strong job growth through at least June 2013.
    • US residential furniture manufacturing is improving with factory sales increasing 6% in 2012. In 2013, domestic wood furniture producers are expected to see a 2-3% sales increase with better consumer signs emerging. Exports of residential wood furniture reached a record $983 billion last year with October and November having the best sales months in history. Sales over the next several years are expected to increase 3-5% annually.
  • Buckeye Hills RC&D – OFA Presentation - OFA was invited to the Buckeye Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Quarterly Council Meeting in Marietta to give a presentation on Ohio’s Forest Products Industry. The RC&D, which was formerly created and funded by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is now a stand-alone non-profit organization that operates through grants and funding from outside sources. It covers a 9-county area in Southeast Ohio. Ohio once had 9 RC&D Councils that covered every county in the state. But with funding cuts, there are now only 4 remaining. I learned that the Buckeye Hills RC&D maintains a revolving loan fund to assist local small businesses with start-up and development funding. Funds are loaned at market interest rates and are available for any eligible business within the RC&D area. In attendance at the meeting and giving a brief presentation on Legislative activity was Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta). Rep. Thompson indicated that he thought the proposal to increase the oil and gas severance tax was not going to pass. I asked him if he would be interested in sponsoring the Forest Products Awareness Week legislation in the House that Sen. Balderson is introducing in the Senate and he advised he would be happy to carry the legislation.
  • OSAF Meeting – OFA Presentation - OFA was invited to give a presentation at the Ohio Society of American Foresters Winter Meeting at OSU this past week. The update detailed recent OFA activities. In addition to the presentation, there was also a brief presentation on OFA efforts to coordinate securing education grant funding to promote the wood in the OSU Thompson Library renovation project. OFA members should recall that members toured the Library at the 2012 OFA Annual Meeting. There was another tour of the library at the OSAF meeting to give particular highlight to the wood used in the $100 million renovation. OFA particularly thanks Adam Conway, Superior Hardwoods of Ohio, for his assistance on the tour, helping to explain details of getting the wood for the project. Superior Hardwoods was instrumental in securing the wood and doing the primary manufacturing. OFA will work with OSAF, the Ohio Tree Farm Committee, the ODNR Division of Forestry, and OSU Extension to secure funding and develop the project.
  • May 21st Seminar – Heat Treatment of Logs and Firewood Using Steam and Vacuum - Hereis a brochure from the USFS Wood Education and Research Center (WERC) about a free seminar for new treatment technology to reduce pest risks with firewood and logs. The seminar will be the morning of May 21st at the WERC facility in Princeton, WV. Preregistration for the event is required, which is done by calling (540-231-4403) or emailing ( Dr. Zhangjing Chen.
  • OFA Partners with the Wildlife Management Institute on a Forest Management Grant Proposal - Last week, OFA agreed to partner with the Wildlife Management Institute on a grant proposal to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative promoting development of young forest blocks for wildlife habitat. The project would involve work in 15 northeast states by WMI to increase awareness among forest landowners and land managers of the need for young forest habitats for a large host of wildlife species. The habitat development would be conducted primarily through timber sales and other forest management projects.
  • Quote of the Week: "Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; it is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and, hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise.” Abraham Lincoln

Ohio Forestry Association is managed by Offinger Management Company, a member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), "Charter-Accredited" Association Management Company member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and a member of the Association Management Company Institute (AMC Institute).

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