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It was good news not just for the housing market, but for Americans in general —foreclosures fell 34 percent in 2011 to its lowest level since 2007.
According to economists, the housing market is key to the U.S. recovery, but until now, has shown few signs of improvement. Although it is expected that lenders will be pushing through delayed foreclosures from late 2011, increasing the foreclosure activity in 2012, it is still not expected to reach the 2010 peak.
U.S. Woody Biomass Prices Have Dropped the Past Three Years
Prices for woody biomass in the U.S., whether sawmill byproducts, forest residues, or urban wood waste, have been sliding for most of the past three years but were still higher in the 4Q/11 in most regions than they were five years ago, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.
The price drop seen in 2010 and 1Q/2011 was mainly the result of lower prices for fossil fuels (particularly that of natural gas) and reduced demand for energy. This declining price trend has reduced the interest by both commercial and residential energy consumers in switching to more expensive green energy.
The two major sources for woody biomass are bark from sawmills/plywood plants and forest residues left after logging operations. In the major biomass-consuming regions of the U.S., prices for forest biomass have been $10-20/odmt higher than for mill biomass during most of 2011. The region with the lowest biomass prices in the 4Q/11 was the West.
The much-heralded Chinese log export boom has impacted woody biomass pricing in the Pacific Northwest the past year. China does not allow the importation of logs with bark, which has resulted in an abundance of bark at export ports along the U.S. west coast, where export logs have been debarked. This new source of biomass supply has created headaches for biomass supply managers in the region as they have had to turn away ample supplies. As a result, prices for forest biomass, mill biomass, and urban wood have all declined between 5-10 percent during the fall, as reported in the North American Wood Fiber Review. Some biomass buyers have not only reduced prices, they have also implemented strict quotas of delivered volumes.
As long as prices for natural gas and oil are relatively low, there will not be much increase in demand for biomass, and biomass prices will continue to stay relatively low throughout the country.
Timber Payments Could Be Extended 6 Years
All six members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation announced bipartisan support for a bill to extend the county timber payments law, says Rex Storm of Associated Oregon Loggers. If the bill passes, the expired Secure Rural Schools Act would be extended for six years, providing declining subsidy payments to counties that lost federal timber receipts in the 1990s.
Oregon May Tweak Logging Standards to Protect Streams
A study found logging on private timberlands made streams warmer, which isn’t good for salmon. Based on the study, the Oregon Board of Forestry is considering “tweaking” the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
According to Board of Forestry chairman, John Blackwell, the board is being mindful of the need to protect salmon but is trying not to impose regulations that would cause timberland owners to sell their lands.
“It’s certainly going to tighten regulations on landowners, but it will not be onerous, and we will do it in such a way that landowners understand the value of it,” Blackwell said.
Amending Clean Water Act
Jim Geisinger, ALC Legislative Committee chair, says, “Members of the American Loggers Council joined with several like-minded organizations in 2011 in an effort to amend the Clean Water Act to permanently exempt silvicultural operations (including the use of forest roads for transporting unrefined forest products) from onerous National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements.”
He adds, “In what can only be described as a temporary fix to the issue, members of Congress inserted language in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, H.R. 2055, which would prohibit the EPA from using any of its funding in 2012 to enforce the NPDES permitting system on silvicultural activities; however, the language contained in the appropriations bill is scheduled to expire in September of 2012. We have won the battle, but we have yet to win the war.”
Congress Grants Nine-month Stay in H-2B Wage Rule
FRA reported that the December 17 passage of the Omnibus Appropriations bill prevents the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing an onerous “Wage Rule” that would have established non-market wage guidelines for migrant guest workers brought to the United States under the H-2B Visa Program. Because of a provision the Forest Resources Association and other members of the H-2B Workforce Coalition worked with Congress to include, DOL may not enforce, or implement, its new Wage Rule until October 1, 2012.
While the wage-setting formula the DOL is trying to implement would affect each state differently, FRA’s Forestry Contractor Task Group estimates that, if implemented, the Rule would increase average tree planting costs by approximately $30 per acre, discouraging reforestation and threatening the U.S.’s long-term wood supply. Based on 2.5 million acres of annual U.S. reforestation, Congress has prevented the imposition of $75.1 million in new costs on the country’s wood supply system in this planting season.
American Loggers Council Provides Loggers Resources, Industry News With New Website
In December, the American Loggers Council (ALC) introduced a redesigned website. Americanloggers.org aims to better support the organization’s mission to serve as a unified voice for professional loggers across the United States, at the local, regional, and national levels.
The new website is rich with multimedia and puts tools and resources front and center, making it a one-stop-shop for loggers to stay up-to-date on news and information.
“This new website is the go-to place for breaking news in the forestry industry, details on the latest legislation, and updates from the ALC,” said Danny Dructor, executive vice president, American Loggers Council. “We worked hand-in-hand with our friends at John Deere and its creative teams to develop design elements and content that are more engaging and user-friendly. We couldn’t be more excited to share it with our members and supporters.”
Loggers will immediately see the difference on the homepage of the website, which is easy to navigate, contains rotating flash images, a stream of recent forestry news, and a featured video.
The “Our Members” tab helps visitors learn more about their own state and regional professional logging associations – the backbone of the ALC – through an interactive map.
The “Your Tools” tab teaches visitors about the many critical public policy issues facing our professional loggers today, including the Clean Water Act, federal truck weights, access to federal timber lands, and renewable energy policies. Also included is a complete list of all 30 member states with links to government body websites, making it one click away from contacting elected officials by phone, email, fax, and mail.
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