Friday, October 19, 2012

Wisconsin's biggest opportunity

Compared to our corn, hay, soybeans, dairy, beef farmers – Wisconsin’s tree farmers only score about 25% of their potential volume and value growth.

Forest owners know almost nothing about what is actually our State’s most abundant agricultural crop and the level of management of 10,000,000 acres of private forest is disgraceful and mostly destructive to the future of the resource.  Most harvests take just the best trees and leave a mess of damage.  Today, many of our best walnut and white oak trees are being cut and exported to the far East for manufacturing, while local timber prices and market demand are at an all time low.   500,000 jobs and half of the production of the timber industry in Wisconsin has recently been lost due to mechanization and globalization.

Low market prices for trees are the cause of the neglect and high-grading – timber has always been a plentiful and very cheap commodity, so forest owners have had little incentive to learn about their timber crop or manage their trees in a future minded way.

Many landowners have worked hard to follow the advice of the professional foresters in industry, government, and universities.  Over and over I hear, “I did everything the foresters have told me, but the income from the harvest is not worth the damage to my land.”  

An occasional short sighted profit is often taken by a forest owner as it is better than nothing, but if the landowner knew the real value of their wood products, they would be shocked and feel shortchanged by the timber industry.

Our family tried everything recommended by the DNR for many years and sold timber several times to commercial sawmills.  Benefits for our efforts were insignificant compared to the amount of work and the value of our investment in the forest.

In the huge timber industry, the forest owner is the only person who does not make a fair income for their time and investment.

No professional forester could ever live off of the money that the forest owner’s gain from the professional’s advice.

In the forestry profession, “sustainable forestry” is when the professional foresters’ job is supported and their wages are paid.  No forest owner ever earns a profitable or sustainable income despite all the experts’ talk about sound forestry and green programs.

Efforts to earn a fair price for landowners in Wisconsin have been undercut by the government subsidies in Canada and the illegal logging in the tropics and Siberia.  When most timber in the global markets is not paid for at any significant level, Wisconsin’s timber industry can not remain competitive when landowners want to be paid for their trees.

Unless people in Wisconsin and our leaders face the truth about our huge forest resource, we will continue to squander this vast and potentially valuable resource.

No one wants to admit this is true, even though they know it is so. 
Everyone is afraid of change and settled in a system.
No one values timber in the first place, so it is no big deal either way.
Professionals don’t want to admit their failure or risk their jobs.
Forest owners don’t want to admit they have been duped for so long. 
Forest owners also are afraid they won’t be able to sell their timber or get DNR tax breaks or management grants.

There is a working and rewarding alternative timber market for anyone who wants to participate.
This working system is what every forest owner and every professional forester would want if they knew about it.   is a new and growing direct market to connect the consumers with the producers.
The goal is to promote the use of locally grown and manufactured wood products – first to meet local needs, then to export extra wood to other markets.

Wisconsin’s forestry professionals refuse to acknowledge that there is an alternative to the industrial forestry that supports their jobs, but the Timber Growers business model is recognized around the world by the United Nations and other groups as the leading marketing innovation in the global timber industry today.  Timber Growers has been invited as a featured speaker at the World Teak Conference in Bangkok in March 2013 and the United Nations International Conference on Wood in S Africa next October.  Past international conference presentations have been made in India, Viet Nam, New Zealand and Timber Growers is currently participating in marketing programs in Ecuador and Brazil.