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Value of timber rose from 2003
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A wet summer kept loggers out of the woods and helped the 2004 timber harvest increase in value for the second consecutive year.
The state's No. 2 agricultural commodity is expected to have a 2004 value of production of about $1.1 billion, up 1.5 percent from last year's value. Poultry and timber have retained their No. 1 and 2 spots since the mid-1990s.
Debbie Gaddis, a forestry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said heavy rains in June, July and August contributed to increased timber prices.
"Lumber mills had difficulty keeping log inventories high during these unusually wet periods. Prices increased with the surge in demand to recover from those unanticipated rainy spells," Gaddis said.
Increased U.S. paper production also helped prices, with an expected 1.9 percent increase over the 2003 production. Gaddis said worldwide demand for paper products is up, and Mississippi's paper industries are competitive with overseas markets. Total U.S. pulp, paper and paper board production is up 3.8 percent this year.
Extension forester Bob Daniels said timber value is estimated mainly by the volume harvested and prices.
"We expect the timber harvest volume this year will be about 3 percent higher than last year, based on what we see in timber severance tax collections through October 2004," Daniels said. "Prices this year held steady or moved higher for the various forest products. These factors combined for a good year."
Daniels said the market for timber has improved with the U.S. economy. An overall improved economy means more people spend their money building, repairing and remodeling homes.
"Since our forest economy is dependent on pine lumber and structural panels like plywood and oriented strand board, the strong housing market has been real significant for us. We saw about 2 million housing starts through October, which was real positive," Daniels said.
The flurry of hurricane activity in September increased demand for lumber as homeowners began repairing damaged homes. Daniels said a 9 percent increase in total construction also had a positive impact on the structural panel and lumber markets.
A proposed new facility in Meridian is expected to increase profits for the state's timber producers. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour wants to provide $10 million toward the opening of a TimTek facility. Researchers at MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center have been using the TimTek technology at a demonstration plant that opened in December 2003 on the Starkville campus.
The TimTek process forms high-strength, engineered lumber using small-diameter trees that are crushed into strands. Coated with an exterior-type adhesive and dried, the strands then are formed to desired shapes in a specialized steam-injection hot press.
The trees used in the TimTek process traditionally were thinned from forests and sent to pulp mills where they were processed into paper or packaging material. With the decline of the pulp industry in Mississippi, landowners have struggled with what to do with thinned trees.
"Now, landowners can redirect those thinnings to the TimTek operation," said Liam Leightley, head of the forest products department. "It's a win for landowners, who now have an out for their thinnings, a win for the government because they still can help landowners grow wood, and a win for TimTek technology and the people who licensed it. Plus, there's the environmental value of growing forests, which act as watersheds and offer rural areas the opportunity for leasing forests for hunting, fishing and other recreational purposes."