Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Terrible Traditional Timber Market – April 2014

The Country Today, an agricultural newspaper published in Wisconsin, printed an article by landowner Dick Hall on April 16th - about the sad market situation faced by every forest owner in the State.  Hall states, “If you take time to do the math, your annual cost of production over a cutting cycle nearly always exceeds your per acre returns at harvest time.   When a farmer markets hogs or grain he knows instantly what prices to expect.  Timber prices are not available in the same way.”
Trees and logs are an agricultural commodity where the supply always has exceeded the demand, resulting in very low market prices.  Industrial globalization of the timber market has augmented this effect in the past few decades, producing the lowest demand ever for Wisconsin timber and very low market prices – well below the costs of production for a landowner.  Forest owners at best receive about 1% of the value of wood products in the stores.  All the foresters, loggers, truckers, sawmillers, etc earn a professional and profitable wage for their efforts, but the grower and the forests are typically taken advantage of by the Trillion dollar per year timber industry for their short term greed.
Making things worse for the forest owner are all the government forestry programs that are supposed to help them.  Hall, for the second time in two weeks also writes about the folly of the Managed Forest Law in Wisconsin.  Landowners are encouraged to enter this property tax program by unfair high property taxes on their forest land and the government foresters talk of “sound forest management.”   It sounds like a good thing for a landowner until they realize they must now harvest all their “mature” trees at low market prices that don’t even begin to cover their costs of owning and managing timber.  Forest owners also find they are forced to surrender control of their management plan, timber marking, and actual harvesting of trees on their lands to outsider “professionals” who are there to make good money for their work just today, leaving the landowner with a mess, damaged lands for the future, and a pittance of income that smacks of unfairness and abuse.
This timber market is well known by landowners while the professional foresters keep their heads in the sand hoping no one will notice.  The situation continues due to the dominance of a few huge corporations over the market and the government foresters and politicians, and the bottom line compromise for everyone  is that “something is better than nothing”.
Foresters as a group ignore the ethics of their profession to sustain their own paychecks.  The profession puts out prolific propaganda on the many merits of sustainable forest management to keep the masses of forest owners quiet and in the flock of “sheeple” until it is their time for slaughter – to feed the industrial  mills.  Foresters doing harvests for landowners typically choose to sacrifice the whole forest for their own instant greed, when their training should have taught them to sustainably harvest just the ‘wool’ - the annual growth, every year for a long term regular income, and only take the “mature” harvest when the individual loses its’ growth vigor.  Sustainable forestry to a professional forester is whatever sustains their own paycheck.  No forester could live on the value of the ‘advice and help’ they dole out to forest owners.  Cover ups are common and whistleblowers are ignored in the forestry profession.
The timber industry takes advantage of the tree growers and local communities in many ways, and even forces many small loggers and timber buyers to cheat the landowner just to survive.   Fraud and timber theft are rampant around the world with the rationalization is that “everyone does it and if you arrest me, you will have to arrest everyone”.  A few get rich at the expense of the planet and the people and the forestry profession keeps on talking about sustainable and green. 
Everyone is afraid to talk about this – the corporations are so powerful they control the market from top to bottom.  Foresters just protect their own jobs and growers don’t want to lose the disappointing payments – anything is better than nothing.
Forests in this region are producing about 25% of their potential growth due to high grade harvesting, over cutting, and neglect.  Less than 1 % of forest owners actively manage their crop in an informed and  business-like way.  Growers receive about 1% of the value of the wood products in the store, way less than their costs of ownership and management.   Forest owners know the truth.
There is an alternative = a better way. 
A hundred years ago, small business in the local community supplied the needs using locally grown and manufactured wood products.  This still works today – wood is the perfect fuel for small business in the local economy.  Wood is simple to grow and process and sell on a small scale, we all use wood products every day.  All the tools and methods and information are readily available today.
Wood customers can choose right now, today – to support local small business and simply avoid the exploitation of our planet and people by the big timber corporations.  Choose to buy local wood from small business and the demand will immediately be decreased - to clear cut the remaining rain forests and use illegally logged trophy wood.

Jim Birkemeier – Timber Grower
Spring Green, WI

Monday, February 17, 2014

Grown and Made in the USA - Use Locally Grown and Manufactured Wood

Wisconsin forests are only growing at 25% of their potential and less than 1% of our forest lands are managed as a profitable and sustainable business.   Market prices have always been so low that no one values our trees and cares for them in a future oriented manner, despite the propaganda from the professionals.   Our best logs are being shipped to the Far East, exporting out jobs due to cheap labor.
Wisconsin has lost 500,000 jobs in the timber industry and wood production has fallen from $36 Billion to $16 Billion per year in just the last few decades.  This is important, trees cover half of our state.
The State of Wisconsin still makes this situation worse every day.  Public owned land comprises about 40% of the forests, including 40,000 acres along the Wisconsin Riverway, making the State the largest forest owner.  Recent harvests near Spring Green on State owned land, administered by Wisconsin DNR foresters, earned the taxpayers just a few dollars per acre per year, not even covering the administrative costs of the timber sales.  Companies from outside the region typically haul the wood to distant mills, leaving little benefit to the local community, and a big mess.  When the largest landowner sells timber at low prices, it sets the precedent for the timber industry to deal with small individual landowners.
The DNR also pressures small woodlot owners to sell their timber at similar low prices, justifying the cutting as “sound forestry”.  Combined, the State’s Managed Forest Law and free services and grant programs keep forest management as a welfare program of the government.   Landowners are kept in the flock of obedient “sheep” until it is their turn to feed the industry, then the forest owners and their timber are used by the foresters and timber industry to support their own jobs.   Everyone in the timber industry and forestry profession makes good money – except the timber grower and local community.
The bottom line is governments everywhere have always put cheap timber on the market for the benefit of the big corporations, thinking that timber harvests create jobs.  Trees are seen as not profitable to grow and are in the way of growing food and Progress. 
The forestry profession has worked hard to maintain this system, knowing that there is corruption and abuse of the forest and the forest owners, to protect their own high paying jobs.  The timber industry is an old, traditional, secretive, and huge institution that so far has continued to cover up all the scandals and silence the whistleblowers, trying to prop up some sense of respect. 
In Wisconsin, the DNR and UW Systems have kept landowners rounded up in the flock and obedient to “do the right thing for the forest.”   When we started the Wisconsin Woodland Owner’s Association, the State immediately said – “That is a great idea – we will give you the money for staff to build this fine organization.”  The person hired has always served the government, not the landowners, keeping them in the control of the State.  When we started the Sustainable Woods Cooperatives, the State immediately said, “That is a great idea – we will give you the money for staff to build this fine organization.”  The persons hired have always served the government, not the landowners, keeping them in the control of the State.”  The Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine only prints what the State wants people to read, blocking stories that promoted different ideas on forest management from the forest owner’s point of view.   The Wisconsin DNR took over FSC Certification, offering it for “free” to Wisconsin family forests in their control, making the certification a meaningless eco label.
The Wisconsin DNR built a working program with consulting foresters, all under government control, to keep the private foresters and landowners in the flock.  Only those that cooperate with government can get part of the free money and influence.  The State ignores the sales commission of the private foresters, a flagrant conflict of interest, then State retirees go into business and fleece the flock with their insider information.  The worst scandals and rip-offs of all are perpetrated by retired DNR Foresters who become consulting foresters, and prey on landowners who trust these once public servants.
Both the DNR and UW Systems only acknowledge Traditional Industrial Forestry as Sound Management, no alternative teachings or methods are allowed or even explored.   Landowners are kept under control with their MFL property tax traps and free services and bait programs and mass propaganda.
Everyone knows all this – but everyone is afraid to talk about it or work to change it.
    Foresters are afraid they would lose their job.
    Landowners are afraid they would lose their market for trees and their government subsidies.
Until we face these problems, nothing will change.  Step for Improvement:
1.       Learn that there are alternative markets for local trees in the local, regional, and world markets.
2.       Teach and encourage ALL of the choices that a landowner has today, let them choose.
3.       Promote the use of locally grown and manufactured forest products.
in the global economy, a community based wood business can best support the local economy.
4.       Educate wood customers on where products come from and how they are made.
5.       Clean up the forestry profession, expose the scandals and hear the whistleblowers.
6.       Eliminate the conflicts of interest in the timber market and sales commissions to foresters.
7.       Don’t allow retired government workers to use insider information to lobby - or for their profit.
8.       State government should support local business and wood products with their purchases.
We really control ALL of this with our purchases of wood products.
When the rich by “trophy wood” for their homes, offices, and yachts, they feed the illegally logging businesses that rips just the best trees from the natural forest, degrading the entire ecosystem.
When we buy cheap wood products on sale at the big corporation store, we feed the industrial clear cutting of the remaining rainforests – using huge equipment and cheap labor, doing extreme environmental damage to the planet for the short term greed of a few.
Buying good wood from local business builds the local economy, supports local jobs, and protects our planet from industrial logging that only makes a few even richer.
There is no excuse for ignorance in any aspect of this situation – we all have to work together to fix this.  We all have to learn to buy the best value products for our future, seeing the global impacts of our purchases.  This is the best we can do in the new global economy and marketplace.

Everyone (almost) on the planet would be better off – if we saw things globally and acted responsibly.
1.        All forest owners and local communities would choose an annual income from a small harvest that improved their forest every year. 
2.       Fair payments with no fraud or cheating would encourage forest owners to produce timber.
3.       Loggers would feel better about their work if they were paid enough to do things right.
4.       Foresters would feel better if their responsible work was accomplished by loggers.
5.       Using urban trees would take pressure off of illegal logging and clear cutting the rainforests.
6.       Using locally grown and manufactured forest products would keep the money local/regional.
7.       Other countries could put their people to work building sustainable communities at home.
8.       Everyone but the shipping companies and the few huge timber corporations would benefit.

Buy Wisconsin Wood – Grown and Made in the USA – For Global Good Use Local Wood!! 
All sizes of woodworking business would benefit if we would buy American/Wisconsin/Local wood.
Avoid the imports - On Sale in the big corporate store and online sales – Boycott Rainforest Liquidators.
Larger business will always be competing with the world markets, small local business can more easily sell direct and eliminate the middlemen and shipping costs.