F & W Forestry Services Press Release

August 6, 2002

Flood of Trees From Pine Plantings
Bringing Turbulence To Southern Timber Markets;
More Industry Capacity Needed

For immediate release
contact: Marshall Thomas, (229-883-0505), mthomas@fwforestry.com
writer: Bates Associates (770-451-0370), bbates@batesassociates.net

ALBANY, Ga. — Large-scale tree planting in the South, which took off with government assistance in the mid-1980s, is expected to inflate supplies and rattle prices of standing timber over the next 15 years, underscoring the critical need for expanded forest product manufacturing facilities to utilize the increased wood growth.

These were the findings of an analysis of planting, growth, and consumption data of Southern pine trees conducted by a leading forestry management and consulting firm that operates throughout the region.

Marshall Thomas, president of Albany, Ga.-based F&W Forestry Services, Inc., says a tidal wave of fast-growing pine trees now starting to flow to pulp and lumber mills from the 32 million acres of trees planted across the South since 1985 is expected to severely buffet tree farmers for the next several years.

Thomas said forest landowners should send a message to Southern governors and legislators that additional manufacturing capacity is needed to produce lumber, pulp and paper, and other wood products from the abundance of commercial trees now growing as crops from Virginia to Texas.

Thomas expects markets for pulpwood—smaller and generally younger trees marketed to pulp and paper mills—along with so-called “chip-and-saw”-class timber used for both pulp and lumber, to be most severely affected by harvests from the millions of acres of pine plantations. Older, larger, and higher quality trees for lumber manufacture should be the least adversely impacted with scarcity of prime sawlogs even likely, he said.

Thomas’ analysis appears in the summer edition of the F&W Forestry Letter, the firm’s quarterly newsletter published for private, non-industrial forestland owners. About two-thirds of all Southern forestland is under this ownership category. Private owners have led the tree-planting movement, encouraged by U.S. government farm programs such as the Soil Bank and Conservation Reserve that paid agriculture landowners to convert cropland to trees.

The analysis is based on tree-planting statistics compiled by the U.S. Forest Service and on year-by-year growth projections by F&W of supplies of commercial-age trees that will be available for harvest from plantations as pulpwood and sawtimber (lumber) through 2015.

Thomas said the data and projections provide a “mixed outlook” for Southern timber growers. “On the bright side, pulpwood becoming available for harvest will decline over the next several years, perhaps bringing some relief from the current near disaster,” he said.

“There could be some pick up in pulpwood prices during this period if a weakening dollar and improving market conditions for pulp and paper products prompt the U.S. industry to increase capacity and production,” writes Thomas. “Unfortunately, even during the downturn in supply, cumulative pulpwood volume becoming available for harvest from plantations will likely exceed consumption.

“It will take favorable economic conditions, along with the slight downturn in supply, to drive price increases,” he said, adding that excessive pulpwood supply conditions are likely to return by 2010.

Pine pulpwood markets are currently severely depressed throughout the South by the glut of trees resulting in part from the first thinning harvests from the 2.6 million acres of farmland converted to pine trees in the South since 1985 under the Conservation Reserve Program.

Thomas’ projections see sawtimber supplies from pine plantations, as opposed to natural stands, increasing through 2013, mostly occurring in smaller lumber-size trees called “chip-and-saw” in the timber trade.

“There could be a real oversupply of these smaller trees, which yield mostly lesser grade lumber,” Thomas said. “The negative impact of this supply increase on small sawtimber prices could be dramatic.” He added that large, high quality sawtimber is the only class of pine trees for which a future over supply is not projected.

Thomas noted that tree-planting on a significant scale in the South began in the late 1950s and early 1960s with conversion of cropland to planted trees and with regeneration of cut-over forest land by industrial and non-industrial land owners. The trend accelerated in the 1980s and mid-1990s again with government help and with the recognition by private landowners that the rapid growth of wood through pine plantations as a good investment—with or without government incentives.

Established in 1962, F&W provides management, timber sales, appraisal, and consulting services to private landowners through its 13 regional offices in nine Southern states.

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