The director of the Louisiana Forestry Association said companies using Louisiana wood products to make biofuels want to know how they can make sure feedstocks are obtained from sustainable sources.
Buck Vandersteen, speaking at the annual Ark-La-Tex Forestry Forum on March 6, said the companies can rely on several programs to assure them they are buying sustainably grown timber. The forum was attended by nearly 150 loggers, property owners and foresters from north Louisiana.
Vandersteen said producers can be certified as sustainable under the American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forest Initiative.
He said the proper management of forestry resources in Louisiana has encouraged companies to do business in Louisiana by either building new facilities or renovating existing ones.
“Continue to grow trees in a sustainable way,” he advised the gathering.
One company, Cool Planet out of Colorado, will build a refinery near Alexandria to make gasoline from wood and natural gas, he said.
David Cupp of Zwolle, LFA president, said many mills are expanding and increasing their capacities. “The economy is looking much better for Louisiana.”
Vandersteen said he recently went to Washington to thank Louisiana’s congressional delegation for voting for the farm bill. Included in the farm bill was a provision that prevents forest landowners and loggers from having to obtain a permit to cut timber as long as sound conservation measures are followed.
He said he and Mike Strain, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry commissioner, visited with Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and she was satisfied that the Louisiana forestry industry is conducting its business properly and doesn’t need additional regulatory oversight. “That is no one’s success other than yours.”
He said the Louisiana Master Farmer Program was patterned after the successful Louisiana Master Logger Program started in 1988 to make sure the industry follows conservation and sustainability practices.
Vandersteen said the farm bill also includes funding for LSU AgCenter extension programs, which includes 4-H. “The 4-H program through our AgCenter is a tremendous benefit to teach our youngsters about the value of our forestry resources.”
Shaun Tanger, LSU AgCenter forestry economist, said lumber prices should improve because Canadian timber is being damaged by a destructive pine beetle. Demand for pulpwood will also increase, he said. “We’re looking at positive growth for the next two to three years.”
Ricky Kilpatrick, LSU AgCenter area forestry agent, advised absentee landowners to hire consultants to help them sell timber and make sure they are being treated fairly. “We’ve got great consultants around here to do that job.”
During a panel discussion of the timber severance tax, Ken Foster, auditor from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, said a permit system would notify his department that timber will be harvested on a specific tract so the tax could be determined sooner.
Vandersteen said timber buyers must report the timber sales, and the harvesters pay the tax.
Foster said most of the taxes revert to parish governments. In 2013, he said, the tax statewide totaled $12.7 million, and $9.3 million of that went to parishes where the timber was cut.
Vandersteen said some of the tax revenue is used for a fund to help landowners plant trees. Some parishes dedicate the funds for road maintenance and schools. He said the severance tax was created to reduce property taxes on forested land.
State Sen. Barrow Peacock of Shreveport said timber is the only agricultural product to be taxed in Louisiana.
Bob McDaniel, Claiborne Parish police juror, said the severance taxes remitted to his parish totaled $370,000 last year, and that went to resurfacing 25 miles of roads.
Luke Lewis of the National Wild Turkey Federation advised landowners that properly maintained roads, small clearings and thinning of underbrush can enhance wildlife habitat. He said the Natural Resources Conservation Service has several programs to help landowners with the improvement costs.
Lewis said prescribed burning will eliminate unwanted vegetation and create a better environment for young turkeys.
Kilpatrick said a prescribed burning workshop will be held April 2-4 at the Hill Farm Research Station near Homer. Certification can be obtained by attending the workshop, he said. Cost is $100, if the fee is paid before March 28, and afterwards the amount increases to $150.