WEST MONROE, La. – With forestry being the largest agricultural crop in the state, keeping landowners, loggers and others aware of the market conditions was the goal of the forestry forum held at the West Monroe Convention Center.
The annual forum featured a lineup of professionals with information to keep those involved in the forest industry abreast of the latest market trends.
LSU AgCenter forestry economist Shaun Tanger told the group that no one item determines price, but a combination has to be taken into account.
On average, “Seventy-five percent of structural wood products go to housing – construction or remodeling,” Tanger said.
Forestry consultant Steve Templin discussed the benefits of using the services of a forest consultant.
“Studies have shown that the use of forestry consultants are known to increase income to landowners,” he said. “There are some basic questions that need to be asked before hiring a consultant, like are they licensed and insured, and what is their philosophy toward stewardship of the land?”
Templin said currently 28 consulting foresters operate in the state. “As landowners become more educated, they are utilizing forestry consultants more, but some are still consulting friends, loggers or maybe timber buyers to advise them.”
Tax attorney Paul Spillers discussed the three classifications for timberland ownership; hobby, investment or business property.
“If your primary purpose of owning land is for your personal enjoyment such as hunting, fishing or a family retreat, your property may be taxed as hobby property,” Spillers said.
Many timber landowners are paying more than their fair share of taxes, he said. “Frankly, many are simply paying taxes they don’t owe.”
Russell Hatcher, certified forester and procurement manager with Drax Biomass, gave an update on what’s happening in the wood pellet industry.
He explained the importance of sustainability in the forest industry as the pellet export business continues to increase.
“A great amount of the wood biomass that goes into pellets are being exported to Europe to generate electricity,” he said.
Louisiana Tech GIS program coordinator Wesley Palmer brought a few drones to show landowners what’s available and how they can be used to help in their forestry enterprise.
“These vehicles can be used in a number of forestry applications, such as to determine number and size of trees and the types of trees on a particular property,” Palmer said.
Maidie Johnson, who owns a small tract of timber in DeSoto Parish, attended the forum for the first time and said she came to learn more about the industry.
“My family has 170 acres, and I’m interested in making it a business and learning how to make our land work for us,” she said.
Louisiana Forestry Association director Buck Vandersteen gave an update on forestry issues in the state.
“It’s very encouraging to know that our new governor is a forestry landowner and a member of LFA,” Vandersteen said.
He reminded those in attendance that there is a lot of uncertainty in the legislature right now.
“But one thing is for sure, and that is we will all be paying more in the future,” he said. “The question is in what form? Will it be in sales taxes or income taxes?”
One of the high notes of the meeting came from AgCenter agritourism coordinator Dora Ann Hatch and Mississippi State University natural resource enterprises program coordinator Daryl Jones, who discussed how forest landowners can generate additional income with agritourism.
“You have recreation opportunities on your land, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and horse trails,” Hatch said. “We have 90 million people out there enjoying recreation on lands, and they are spending $145 billion.”