Yesterday was the 2010 Wisconsin Bioenergy Summit hosted by the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative. I was asked to present as part of panel on biomass research supply related to our new study to survey the logging sector.
Our session and others were video-recorded, so I hope to provide links as soon as they are available. In the meantime, below are the unedited talking points for my presentation. I chose not to use PowerPoint, which drew some positive reactions. [Note: not all bullets covered in presentation]
My research focus is on the supply of fiber from forests and woodlands in the region.
FOUR MAIN POINTS
- Stress critical role of loggers in wood fiber supply and management, current and future
- Describe the somewhat tenuous situation faced by loggers and their sector as a whole
- Identify key applied research questions that relate to the sector both for traditional and woody biomass opportunities
- Describe an on-going WBI-supported research project and its potential impacts
ROLE OF LOGGERS
- Wood products is second most important industry in the state; centered in the North
- Biomass from existing forests viewed as one component of future bioenergy portfolio
- Forest markets are peculiar in comparison to ag (and other) production systems
- LANDOWNERS & MILLS but neither responsible for harvesting and transport
- In fiber supply, therefore, loggers play THREE critical roles
- Link landowners with fiber markets
- Help landowners and forest managers meet objectives
- Implement (or not) forest practices that address long-term ecological sustainability
WHO ARE LOGGERS?
- Since 1980s-1990s, radical shifts in technology; substitute capital for labor
- Few studies in region document role, impact, or status beyond efficiency studies
- 2004 logger survey: first comprehensive study of WI and UP
- Roughly 2,500 active firms in region
- Logging firms are very small “micro” firms (0-1 employees)
- Subcontracting is the norm (an insurance issue, but affects other things)
- Capital intensive: median investment, $300K, iron and stumpage
- Pulpwood is primary output – potential conflict
- Firm specialization notably along landownership
- ~ 25% of firms expected to be out of business in 5 yrs; 600,000 cords = 1 small paper mill
DEVELOPMENTS & KEY QUESTIONS
- Impact of recession – 20-30% gone
- Various operational restrictions have increased
- Woody biomass has arrived; Also importing pulp
- Key research questions…
- What is the logging sector’s current capacity to meet existing fiber supply needs?
- Can it readily expand to supply new bioenergy markets?
- Is adoption of new technologies feasible? Can policy help?
- Melinda (UW-SP); funds: WBI support: GLTPA, DNR
- Re-survey the logging sector in the region to meet three objectives
- Describe status and capacity with emphasis on change since 2004
- Determine factors that either impeded or enhance potential to innovate
- Communicate findings to decision- and policy-makers (note recent experience)
- Currently gathering lists and revising questionnaire for SPRING 2011 mail survey
- Will survey firms that responded last time and a random sample; provide longitudinal analysis and estimate of current situation
- Scholarly portions rely on small business literature and past studies of factors in their survival
- MS Student will complete analysis as part of thesis
- Expect products in mid 2012
- Loggers are key actors in forestry system
- Bioenergy needs to be integrating within existing fiber supply and harvest systems
- This study will give us additional insights into this system that, we hope, will influence policy