Wall 'Logger of Year' at LFA
Convention highlights industry prospects at 66th meeting

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Bobby Wall, a logging contractor located north of Bogalusa near the little town of Osyka, Mississippi, was named 2013 Louisiana Logger of the Year during the LFA Convention held the last week of August in New Orleans. Wall operates all over southeast Louisiana and southwest Mississippi. With multiple crews and over 27 log trucks, Wall's operation moves a lot of timber each day.

Wall Timber is truly a family business as his wife, Kim, serves as office manager and the "go to" person in the operation. His son-in-law is the crew foreman on one of his logging jobs. Wall does thinning and final harvesting with 66 employees. He has also experimented with pruning of pine plantations.

Lowell Hubbard of Winnfield, serving his third year as President of the Louisiana Logging Council, made the initial presentation of the 2013 Logger of the Year to Bobby Wall. Hubbard's presentation of the award was followed by a host of gifts from timber industry businesses as is customary each year to the Logger of the Year.

One of those bearing gifts for Bobby Wall was Todd Martin, Executive Director of the Southern Loggers Cooperative. He presented Wall with a lifetime membership in the Southern Loggers Cooperative (SLC).

More than 500 timber industry people gathered at the Cowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans for the 66th annual Louisiana Forestry Association Convention. The organization's 2005 Convention had been scheduled for New Orleans but was canceled due to Hurricane Katrina.

David Cupp with Walsh Timber Company in Western Louisiana is the new president of the 66-year old forest industry organization that represents the timber industry's interests in a wide variety of venues, including the legislative and political scenes. Dick Myers, Public Affairs Director for Boise in DeRidder was the outgoing LFA President after serving two years at the helm. Buck Vandersteen is the longtime Executive Director of the LFA, and leads the team in all its political, legislature and educational programs. The Association operates with an annual budget of around $900,000.

The Political Action Committee for Forestry in Louisiana, known as ForPac, is led by Ed Myers and Carl Wells. At the recent LFA convention, ForPac raffled off a Beretta A400 Extreme 12-guage shotgun. The Beretta is one of the lightest recoil gas automatic shotguns on the market and is valued at $1,250.

The 66th LFA convention started out with a stroke and a bang on Tuesday morning, the 27th of August. The LFA golfers took to the local New Orleans Audubon Golf Course for a competitive round of golf sponsored by Crosby Land & Resources, Whitney National Bank and Louisiana Timber Partners. The bang was from the shotguns at the Clay Shoot at Covey Rise in Husser about 60 miles north of the Crowne Plaza Hotel located at the corner of Canal and Bourbon in downtown New Orleans.

Louisiana Land Bank provided a complimentary continental for the early risers on Wednesday, the 28th. The Silent Auction, registration, and exhibitors were also all in action at 8 AM on that day. The General Session of the Convention began at 9 a.m. with Jonathan Martin of Roy O. Martin Companies making a presentation about sustaining a family business in the timber industry in Louisiana.

Brendan Lowney, gave a presentation on the "State of The Timber Industry." Lowney noted "Our industry is doing much better than it has in six years. Next year, housing starts are predicted by some economists to hit the one million level. There is some good solid evidence that the housing industry which is our bread and butter will have that many new homes started next year. However, there are several reasons to be cautious about those great projected numbers."

"Most of those starts will take place in the south and west and production of lumber in those areas will increase," Lowney explained. "One of the big questions is Canada and what is taking place there and its implications for the US lumber market. Canada is fighting a huge beetle problem in its timber growing areas. However, their damaged timber will still be merchantable for several years due to the climate."

"China is predicting 15 million new housing starts in 2014 to accommodate the 200 million people who are moving from rural to urban areas each year. On the surface, this would seem to be good news for the US lumber market. However, most of the new houses in China are made of concrete. These houses are not much more than a concrete bunker. China uses 60% of the concrete used annually around the world."

Seth Ginter, an attorney and Executive Director for the US Industrial Pellet Association (USIPA) made a presentation entitled "The Pellet Industry Feeding Europe." The USIPA has 58 members which include suppliers, vendors, equipment manufacturers and companies wishing to build pellet mills in the USA.

"Europe, and especially the UK, presents a great opportunity for the pellet industry in the United States," Ginter stated. "The UK wants to produce at least 20% of their electricity from biomass pellets by the year 2020. This priority in the UK is based on their conviction to abide by the Kyoto Protocols developed by UN members several years ago."

On questioning by the Journal, Ginter admitted: "The base foundation for the opportunities that we see in Europe and the UK for biomass pellets is due to their proposed government subsidies of the electricity cogeneration industry. The people are in favor of paying higher rates for electricity if that will cut down on greenhouse emissions."

Ginter was also a panelist at an afternoon discussion hosted by the Louisiana Logging Council. The Journal asked Ginter directly both during the panel discussion and later in a private conversation: "What will be the stumpage paid to landowners for biomass to make these pellets, and what will be the cut and haul rates for the loggers for biomass going to the proposed pellet mills being talked about in the media for Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi?"

Ginter would not answer the question either during the panel discussion or later in a private discussion. In the private discussion, the Journal asked Ginter, "Do we understand correctly that people in Europe and the UK would pay a higher rate for electricity and higher taxes, or tariffs as they are known in the UK, for the government subsidies to produce electricity from renewable feedstock?"

Ginter's replied, "That is our understanding of the current situation in the UK and Europe." The London Telegraph newspaper has been following this developing story and notes that electrical rates, already high, will more than double in the next few years.

Graphic Packaging of West Monroe sponsored the Friday night banquet style event that was highlighted by the presentation of the Logger of the Year award to Bobby Wall.

The Timberman's Self-Insured Fund of Winnfield sponsored the Thursday morning breakfast that drew more than 300 people. Doug Wells, Executive Director of the Timberman's Fund was present with an entourage of Winnfield folks. The Timberman's Fund was also a prominent exhibitor at the LFA convention giving away a great package of "goodies" to visitors to their booth, including orange tee-shirts which became to "have to have" item at the convention. The 66th LFA Convention closed with an in-depth presentation by Dominick Knoll, CEO of the World Trade Center in New Orleans, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing exports of Louisiana products. Knoll emphasized that numerous opportunities exist to export forest products through the help of the WTCNO. Knoll encouraged those in attendance to contact the WTCNO to pursue exporting opportunities.