Timber markets face challenges

Karol Osborne  |  3/18/2019 6:21:07 PM

(03/18/19) Shreveport, La. — Market opportunities, management practices and tax incentives were among the topics presented at the 34th Ark-La-Tex Forestry Forum held March 12 at the LSU Shreveport University Center.

“It’s not what you want to grow or how you want to grow it, but who is going to take it,” said LSU AgCenter forest economist Shaun Tanger, addressing about 75 timber landowners and forestry industry representatives.

Timber markets are very specific, Tanger said, and lumber mills have improved their utilization rates to generate more wood per acre.

Bossier Parish timber landowner David Caldwell said he recently sold timber in Bienville Parish that was 85 miles away from the mill, increasing his transportation costs and making it more difficult to find a market for his trees.

“The mills are basically gone or in limited numbers, and they’ve gone in and revamped a lot of them so they aren’t taking large timber,” Caldwell said.

“If you want to have any final return, you need to know who in your area is going to take your wood and what kind of wood they take,” Tanger said.

Global wood products are trending more to softwoods than hardwoods, and softwood diameters are getting smaller as most mills are looking for tree diameters at 12 to 14 inches, Tanger said.

“Across the southeast, the big pattern is moving more toward growing trees like we do crops — faster, shorter rotations,” Tanger said.

Even with a spike in the number of board feet per acre being produced, Tanger said prices in lumber remain high with projected increases in production over the next three to four years.

Greater demand for the few mills in operation that are producing large amounts of lumber may trigger some new mills or at least mill expansions in the state, he said.

Printing and writing paper has taken a dive largely due to technology-driven changes in paper use. However, a massive increase in packaging demand — what Tanger calls the Amazon economy — is expanding U.S. paper and paperboard production.

“Every time you order something, it shows up in a box,” he said.

Pine markets are expected to increase in the next three to four years with an increase in production possible in Louisiana, especially in the northwestern part of the state where there is good supply potential.

Louisiana Forestry Association executive director Buck Vandersteen said landowners have done an excellent job of growing trees, producing about 30 percent more than what is harvested each year.

“What we need are more markets to use our materials,” he said, adding that as much as 2 million tons of wood is laying idle in south Louisiana due to decreased production.

It is important for timber landowners to have a consulting forester help evaluate purchased property to establish optimal timber tax basis, said Paul Spillers, president of the Louisiana Forestry Association and a Monroe attorney.

Wildlife also was a of interest to the foresters.

“We seem to be losing the battle with feral hogs,” said AgCenter animal scientist Glen Gentry, adding that the pigs are responsible for $74 million in losses to crops and property in the state.

“Hunting alone will not solve the problem,” he said.

Aerial gunning — sometimes called helicopter hunting — is more effective for feral hog removal than on-ground hunting and trapping, Gentry said.

Toxic chemicals used as bait have proved a less reliable method because there is no feeder on the market that can consistently deliver the toxin, he said, and public health issues regarding the use of warfarin-based toxins has led to a continued ban on their use on feral hogs.

Chronic wasting disease in deer is a concern among timber landowners as more affected animals have been identified in neighboring states, although no cases have been found in Louisiana, said AgCenter wildlife specialist Ashley Long.

“Landowners can help prevent the spread of CWD by minimizing places where susceptible animals congregate, such as feeding stations,” Long said.

Long cautioned against the use of commercial urine lures, which pose a threat to healthy animals because companies are not highly regulated and lures cannot be guaranteed to be free of CWD contamination.

Actions related to forestry management can potentially cause environmental issues, said AgCenter irrigation specialist Stacia Conger.

“If you find an area that needs attention, the longer you wait to address these concerns, the more it will cost to correct them,” Conger said.

When planning roads and other land improvements, it is important to look at the whole picture and concentrate on mitigation for environmental factors that can negatively affect water quality, Conger said.

“It is important to have a conservation plan in place,” said Brian Baiamonte, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Plans can be fluid and can change over time,

Conservation Technical Assistance is a voluntary program and can be as large or as small as needed based on evaluated alternatives to meet planning goals, he said.

“Now is a good time to contact a consulting forester to develop a management plan for your property,” said AgCenter forestry agent Valerie West. “It is one of the best options for helping to maximize your returns,”

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