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Experts urge patience at Louisiana forestry forum

Excess houses on the market and no immediate sign of increased housing construction mean forestland owners should be patient. Report from the 2012 Ag Expo Forestry Forum presented by the LSU AgCenter Jan. 20 at the West Monroe Convention Center.

With excess houses on the market and no immediate sign of increased housing construction, forestland owners and others were told to be patient at the 2012 Ag Expo Forestry Forum presented by the LSU AgCenter Jan. 20 at the West Monroe Convention Center.

LSU AgCenter forest economist Mike Dunn said the current situation for those in the forest industry will not change much in the near future. As long as the housing industry is flat, the forestry industry won’t be improving much.“The economy continues to struggle. Unemployment is still high, and the housing market is still mired in recession because of too much existing inventory resulting from foreclosures.”

Dunn explained that the forest industry can't fully recover until housing gets better. 2012 may be slightly better than last year -- but only very marginally.

“There are a few positive signs out there that things may be about to get better but we still have a long way to go,” Dunn said.

Landowners have not been immune to the economic slowdown that’s gripping Louisiana and the entire nation, said LSU AgCenter area forester Steve Hotard.Despite the decline, forestlands still provide sustainable contributions to the state’s economy and environment.

“Management of forestlands is still important to provide clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and economic value to private forest landowners and the forest industry, even during slow economic times,” Hotard said.

Several politicians attended the forum, including U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander from the Fifth Congressional District, which is the largest agricultural district in the nation, and state Sen. Francis Thompson, chairman of the agriculture committee.

Legislation in Congress should help the forest industry, Alexander told the group.“We want to develop a plan that will have a positive impact on the housing industry and hopefully help forest products to be sold equally across the globe.”

Lance Patterson, consulting forester with Patterson Forestry Consultants in Ruston, told the group things can be done while prices are down. For example, European markets are using wood products for energy.“No matter what prices are doing, they need to continue to manage their property. A lot of landowners are trying to wait it out, but we’re telling them they need to continue to manage their property, and we’re seeing a few of them starting to cut trees a little.”

The forestry forum keeps people informed and lets them know they are important, Hotard said. “We also want to remind them of the need to continue to manage our natural resources on our forestlands.”

Louisiana Forestry Association executive director “Buck” Vandersteen reminded attendees that forestry is the Number One agricultural industry in the state with a yearly value of over $3 billion and covers over one-half of the state’s land area.“We need to be active in the forest, but we also need to be active in the political arena to make sure that we keep our research dollars at work for us.”

The forum concluded with LSU AgCenter wildlife specialist Don Reed sharing information about the management and control of feral hog in the state.

Reed said feral hogs are now a problem in all 64 parishes, and they appear to be getting worse. He said it’s hard to put a dollar value on forestland losses from the hogs, but they are known to compete with wildlife for feed such as acorns. 

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