9th WCLA’s Annual Meeting: Positive Outlook

Red Lion
Hotel at the Park
Spokane, Washington

By Mike Crouse

A very optimistic crowd of 150 loggers and their spouses were in attendance at this year’s Washington Contract Loggers Association 29th Annual Meeting held at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Washington. A very tight agenda ran on schedule, and Friday evening’s 17th Annual Log A Load Auction raised a record $63,000 plus for the Children’s Miracle Network.

First speaker following lunch was Gordon Culbertson of Forests2Market, Inc., talking about the forest products markets and the “recovering” economy.

Overall Culbertson’s report was very optimistic particularly as to the growing demand for forest products. He noted the greatest driver for the forest products industry remains home construction. Demand for new housing is increasing gradually, and while the recovery is slow 2014 and 2015 look brighter.

He noted the next few years demands will rise as well. “The total U.S. lumber supply was about 40 billion BF in 2013,” and is expected to “... increase by 19% over the next few years.”

The drags on new construction align with the economic issues of the past several years. “Some problems for the next generation of homebuyers; debt burden and underemployment,” coupled with, “... a college degree presently is not necessarily the ticket to a long career, and “the degree’s not always that useful.” Lower employment, leads to fewer households formed.

He spoke on some factors affecting the international market for wood fiber. Perhaps the most notable change he noted was, “for the first time in a few years we’ve seen the housing market turn around (in Japan), improved market for US Logs in Japan.” In addition he added that, “Japan chose Douglas Fir as a local species... it is their preferred log,” very good news for the Pacific Northwest. The increased demand is not only for lumber but also logs, and some of that comes from the Tsunami rebuilding.

“Nothing happens without the logger,” Culbertson said, as he concluded. There’s a lot of demand both for domestic and export wood. “There’s a greater share of cable logging ahead, plenty of work for contractors and logging prices are up. “ He also recognized there’s a “critical labor shortage” of loggers and drivers, and there’s a lot of competition as well from construction and manufacturing, which also affects both wages and benefits.

Overall he finished noting, “The next several years will be a good period for the industry.”

We heard presentations on Biomass collection and transportation efficiencies as well, presented by Dr. Tami Laninga (Univ. of Idaho) and Dr. Rene Zamora-Cristales (Oregon State).

Ed Bruser, with Bendix Corp., outlined the disc brake systems being used now on both tractors and log trailers, new design features and how these systems are being implemented with great success with a growing number of units in the logging industry.

Garth Redifer, Power Service Products, outlined the products his company sells to maintain the stability and productivity of today’s ULSD diesel products.

Dr. Lynn Michaelis, with Strategic Economic Analysis, LLC, spoke on the economic trends ahead, titled “Building Momentum Slowly!” He lead off noting in the timber industry, “...things continue to look good for at least four more years,” and that by and large the economy continues to improve. The emphasis throughout his presentation was, “... just how slow this recovery is.”

Similarly he noted “the people having the real problem are our young people,” with slow job growth, high debt loads, which has a direct link to reduction in family formation. No new families, reduced need for housing.

Michaelis stated that the budget deficit issues are behind us as is a lot of the spending craziness, and that the “...momentum for the U.S. Economy should pick up, in addition to other factors. Plus he added there’s an “energy kicker,” coming as well. “Oil prices, we’ve not seen a movement in oil prices for three years, and the feeling is oil may drift lower over the next few years.” The reason: fracking, “...has so fundamentally changed the world. The rampup in liquid fuels in the U.S. dramatically changes the energy picture.”

Overall Michaelis report was very optimistic. “We’ve had very little recovery so far, there’s a lot better to come!” And as that economic picture improves, if young people have jobs they’ll start forming households.

Yoram Bauman, PhD. Spoke on “Comedy, Carbon and Climate... Roving in the three C’s,” and bills himself as a stand-up economist. The crux of his presentation, however revolved around “Environmental Tax Reform,” based on “...best climate policy in the world is in British Columbia,” which has been in place since 2008. “In the view of many economists including myself... it’s a good policy.” And perhaps that’s true, at least for BC., according to Bauman.

Bauman and a group of others (see the web site at: http://carbonwa.org/) have formed a political interest group, Carbon Washington, that’s based on the BC plan, which was presented as a new source of revenue (from tax on carbon, especially fuels), which will then offset and reduce existing taxes

There are some comments on that presentation in “From the Stump” column in Log Trucker. Amusing and very straight forward in seeking collaboration and input for his groups proposed initiative.

The last speaker was Washington State Senator Brian Dansel, whose refreshing presentation on the last session and what is needed in state government was a breath of fresh air.

With that the meeting adjourned. Kudos to the WCLA board and staff for another oustanding program.