Forestry Challenges and Positives to Be Focus of COFI Convention
Prince George, BC.- This week, forestry is the focus as the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) holds its annual convention in Vancouver and there is plenty to discuss.
There is no doubt, these are challenging times for forestry with the Softwood Lumber Agreement up in the air, duties and tarriffs about to be levelled and reductions to the annual allowable cut yet to be announced.
COFI President Susan Yurkovich says while there are challenges, there are also opportunities “Our plan for the convention is to talk about the challenges we are facing, but also to talk about the great things that are happening.” Those great things she says, include the move to taller buildings made of wood, innovation , good markets, including in the U.S and the opportunities in China as well as those presented by working with First Nations.
The annual allowable cut is going to be reduced from the high rates of harvesting seen during the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. There are 140 communities across B.C. who rely on forestry as their economic driver. Minister of Forests, Steve Thomson has already been in discussions with the Federal Government over possible supports that could be offered to ensure the health of those communities. She say says during the transition , she would hope government would use “any of the levers” it has to support communities and workers during the transition. “It’s important that governments can work with industry and communities to make sure that as we go through this difficult time, all policy levers are employed.”
Still, with no sign of a Softwood Lumber agreement, Yurkovich remains positive “I think this is an industry that is resilient and we have faced these challenges before. It’s not great, I’m not sugar coating it, it’s not great, we wish were not in this place. We wish the U.S. would understand, as has been proven out in the courts for so many iterations in this dispute that we are not an industry that is subsidized, so it’s unfortunate we have found ourselves here, but we have found ourselves here before and we have successfully defended our interests and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we have a very highly efficient industry in British Columbia that has had to be resilient as it faces these challenges.”
The convention is set to take place April 5th through the 7th.
They have their heads in the sand shilling for Wall Street based monopoly capitalism in the BC forest industry IMO. It’s all just words with no meaning to create the appearance we are all in the same boat with the same issues.
The closed tenure system allowing for the monopoly access to public forest resources at non market rates is the problem. At least be honest and up front that there are two views as to how this issue is interpreted between Americans and our forest industry. If they can not even acknowledge the problem, then they are part of the problem.
We have the federal government taking the lead in the trade front, but the issue the Americans have can only be solved at the provincial level as the natural resources and their management is a provincial responsibility under the Canadian constitution. So at minimum we need to have meetings that involve both levels of government working together, but ultimately BC forest policy is critical to any negotiations on a solution. To have Minister Freeland talking about reopening NAFTA and trading our farm jobs in dairy for peace on the softwood issue misses the point entirely and seems to indicate other agenda’s other than solving the softwood lumber issue.
IMO we need to relook at our access to fiber in BC forests for a move towards more opportunity to new entrants and smaller mills in a more free enterprise process that IMO would require a new crown corporation on the harvesting procurement and domestic log market side of things… Why not send out feelers to the Trump guys and get some input on what they view as a market solution? Just taking the view of our monopoly capitalist foreign owned forest industry capita ins will never get us to yes IMO.
Eagleone:-“IMO we need to relook at our access to fiber in BC forests for a move towards more opportunity to new entrants and smaller mills in a more free enterprise process that IMO would require a new crown corporation on the harvesting procurement and domestic log market side of things…”
That proposal has been floated before, Eagle. And in theory it all sounds good. Except it won’t work. Before any ‘new entrant’ or ‘smaller mills’ have a chance at success they need to have access to credit. You don’t get that, at least not for long, unless you have some assured access to the timber you’re hoping to cut. And at a price that’s reasonably predictable.
Open market bidding will simply not provide that. It’s already been proven multiple times that it can’t. Some of the forest firms that grew into fairly substantial entities started on straight open market bidding. Doman Industries is one example that comes to mind. But to stay in business and grow, which is vital so long as we have governments that are convinced that inflation is good for us, Doman needed continual and growing access to credit. They could never have got that if they’d remained solely dependent on open market bidding.
“Just taking the view of our monopoly capitalist foreign owned forest industry capita ins will never get us to yes”
It has every time in the past.
“We have the federal government taking the lead in the trade front, but the issue the Americans have can only be solved at the provincial level as the natural resources and their management is a provincial responsibility under the Canadian constitution.”
Did you not read: “Minister of Forests, Steve Thomson has already been in discussions with the Federal Government over possible supports that could be offered to ensure the health of those communities.”?
Also, the US Forestry Service shares responsibility, working in concert with State and local agents, for the stewardship of about 500 million acres of non-Federal rural and urban forests.
The fact is, international trade agreements are Federal jurisdiction in both countries.
In both countries states and provinces are brought into the discussion.
Depends what you are defining ‘yes’ by. If it is the monopoly consolidation of our forest industry, then yes. If it’s a free enterprise sector of diverse and sustainable operations that maximizes employment for the workers in BC as well as the value for our fiber resources, then we can debate that one.
You have what you call “monopoly consolidation of our forest industry” because, under the current system of finance, that’s what it takes to survive. If workers’ wages are the main source of consumer incomes, which they still are, and you have an economy that keeps displacing labor with technology, which, though it reduces costs, does not eliminate them, you’ve got a big problem. ALL costs flow through into prices at the point of final retail. But if only a PART of those costs are current labor incomes distributed to worker/consumers, then how does that PART ever fully liquidate the WHOLE? This is something that extends across ALL our industries, even into things like banking, considering any bank as a business.
Under this kind of set-up, where the flow of distributed incomes is falling in overall ratio to the total flow of costs entering prices, profits are going to FALL in ratio to sales. Their reported dollar amount, year by year, may still be rising. But each successive year far MORE has to be sold to enable that to happen. The big have to keep getting bigger. Carried to its ultimate conclusion, we’ll end up with a type of socialism when the last private monopoly company still standing still can’t make its finances work, and government steps in to take the whole works over. And then watch what happens as they try to ‘rationalise’ what they’ve done!
The forest minister asking the federal government to support communities hit be softwood industry monopolization is not a solution to the problem, but rather an acknowledgement that they have no solution, so it’s an ask to mitigate the collateral damage to having no policy solutions.
Also the US relationship between federal and state authorities is not the issue for us. They have a different system. The states don’t control their public lands with the BLM making those positions for them. Sure the Americans would like to push Canada to greater federal control of public lands in a Pax Americana sense, but that is simply not on the table in Canada and we would never stand for that.
That facts are international trade is federal jurisdiction in both countries… But natural resources are only federal in America and not Canada. In Canada if the federal trade negotiator comes up against a trade complaint dealing with an area governed by an issue of provincial responsibility under the constitution, then they have to work with the province on the solution.
“The states don’t control their public lands with the BLM making those positions for them”
That is not quite true. The states do own some of the public land. In fact, there are only 5 states where the BLM controls more than 50% of the land in the State.
There are only 17 states where the BLM controls more than 10% of the land in the state.
Here is the whole list in descending order
New Mexico 34.70%
United States total 27.40%
New Hampshire 13.80%
North Carolina 7.70%
West Virginia 7.40%
South Dakota 5.40%
South Carolina 4.40%
North Dakota 3.90%
New Jersey 3.70%
Rhode Island 0.80%
New York 0.30%
United States total 27.40%
In case someone is wondering how much land the National Forest Service controls, here is an image which gives you an idea.
While the US manages more and federally than Canada does, there is a very significant amount of land which is privately and State owned (State public lands).
The NFS, for instance, over the last 20 years has transitioned into spending over 50% of its funds on wildfire fighting then research, silviculture and other functions they used to do.
Lumber trade magazines from the USA have long predicted that the US could be entirely internally self-sufficient in softwood lumber on a sustainable basis if the US Forest Service managed National Forest lands to the same degree private forest lands are managed. This they’ve never done. And since all the furor over the preservation of spotted owl habitat most of the US National Forest lands in the western States have had their timber harvests reduced to a miniscule fraction of what they used to produce. It’s interesting that under that scenario, one which devastated many timber dependent communities, and greatly escalated saw timber prices, the mills that did best were NOT those that were of the ‘value added’ variety, or even high-end specialty mills, but stud mills. Making that lowliest, most common lumber item, the eight foot 2×4. The reasons aren’t hard to discern. They SELL, and they sell fast. And they’re not hard to make. You don’t need a highly trained crew, or even a very large one. The secret is in the turnover rate. Oftentimes mills can have them made and sold BEFORE they even pay for the logs!
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