Southeast area needs market for timber

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Dennis Aucoin, the longtime logger based in Southeast Louisiana, hosted Governor John Bel Edwards and State Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain on their statewide tour in the middle of a pristine 1,000 plus acre treee farm. The event took place at the Aucoin Lodge on the banks of the Comite River and was attended by 100 or more people invovled in the forest and agriculture industry in the Florida Parishes.

"It was my pleasure to host the Governor and Commissioner out here at my camp in the middle of my tree farm," Dennis Aucoin told the Piney Woods Journal.

"The purpose of hosting them at my camp was to get them to theFeliciana Parishes so that we could talk face to face with them about the problems we face in the forest industry here in southeast Louisiana. The major problem is very simple; we just do not have markets for our log timber."

Warren Peters, with Peters Forestry Resources of Baton Rouge, echoed this same sentiment. Peters explained to the Governor and Commissioner: "There are no real markets for log timber in our area. To get a decent price for our logs we would have to truck them over one hundred miles north into Mississippi. The cost oftrucking the logs that far distance prohibits us from doing that.

What we need is a new sawmill in the Florida Parishes."

"For those who have invested in timber land in southeast Louisiana, and people like myself who own and manage timberland for others, the situation is very dire. Without markets to which you can sell your product at a profit, your investment is not worth very much. One of the reasons that we are faced with the lack of markets for our logs is that several mills have closed in this area over the years.

The second major reason is the consolidation within the forest industry of the major corporations. These companies have so much timber on their own lands, that they don't need private timber."

"Timber for chipping operations, OSB plants, paper mill and pellet mills is great overall for the forest industry. However, the real value in timber is the log timber. If a landowner has to sell his log timber for wood to be chipped, then he is losing most of his return on investment.

"In my logging career, which has spanned the last 36 years of my life, there have been 19 mills that I hauled logs to at one time or another that have now closed,'' Dennis Aucoin interjected. "With all the problems we are having with trucking, due to EPA regulations, and no market for our timber, it is not a good time to be in the logging business in Southeast Louisiana."

"I know of several loggers who have had to go out of business already because of our lack of markets to haul logs to. Each one of those loggers employed several people, so the significance of a logging contractor going out of business puts more and more people in the unemployment lines."

Governor John Bel Edwards was very attentive to the issues. The Governor stated; "I can't give you a blank check by any means because there is not much money available, but I do sincerely believe that our Economic Development Department and Commissioner Strain's Department can truthfully find ways to help you guys stay in business and prosper."

Governor Edwards added this footnote: "This is the first time since Earl Long was Governor and Huey Wilson was Commissioner of Agriculture that the Governor of Louisiana and the Commissioner of Agriculture have made a tour together in Louisiana."