Timber industry overregulated, Smith says during HAVCO tour

Thursday, March 20, 2014 By Samantha Kluesner ~ Scott County Signal

HAVCO Wood Products employs 225 people and is on the verge of hiring 50 more to accommodate demand for its products, but it could be doing even better without so much government regulation, its chief executive officer said Wednesday.
“If we could get D.C. out of the way, we would do better,” Bruce Bader, CEO of HAVCO Wood Products, told U.S. Rep. Jason Smith.

Smith, who visited HAVCO on Wednesday as part of his districtwide timber industry tour, agreed.

“In more ways than one,” he said.

Without the over regulation of the government, Smith, forest product advocates and company leaders believe more timber could be safely harvested from public lands while at the same time producing more jobs for the struggling economy.

Bader said the public has a negative perception of cutting down trees.

“We have these trees dying in our forests that could have been used and produced a job. The studies show that the timber inventory is growing,” he said.

Annual timber growth in Missouri is 1.9 billion board feet, with the annual harvest being 546 million board feet, according to a 2009 Missouri Department of Conservation study.

Smith followed Jason LeDure, HAVCO quality control manager, throughout the plant to see firsthand the process of turning raw lumber into oak flooring for trailers, truck bodies and containers.

Company leaders and Smith said industries spend a lot of time and money just researching and keeping up with compliance and government regulation.

“Regulators in D.C. have the mentality that more regulation creates more government jobs, and they see that as a good thing,” Smith said.

He said more government regulators cost more tax dollars and equate to less spending on infrastructure and other services.

Brian Brookshire, executive director of Missouri Forest Products Association, accompanied Smith on his timber tour.

The MFPA promotes the forest products industry of Missouri and advocates sustainable management of Missouri’s forests.

“Missouri forests, especially the Mark Twain, are undermanaged right now. We are seeing 50 million board feet of hardwood dying per year when we could be using these trees,” Brookshire said.

According to Brookshire, 50 million board feet of hardwood were logged from the Mark Twain National Forest last year. They are hoping to see 60 million board feet logged in 2014, but the ideal amount for the industry and the MFPA would be to have 120 million board feet of timber logged from the forest each year to keep up with demand and still keep forests sustainability.

“We have seen them [the forest service] spend $12 million in five years burning unmarked, cut trees, when these trees could be made into hardwood floors,” Smith said.

“One of the issues I constantly deal with in Washington, D.C., is rogue, unaccountable federal agencies. Whether it is the Department of the Interior trying to take away our property rights through a White River National Blueway, the National Park Service trying to tell us that we can’t baptize people in the river, or now the Forest Service burning whole swathes of the Mark Twain National Forest at great cost to our forest products industry, these bureaucrats just seem to think that they can get away with anything,” said Smith in a September news release after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.

Smith included an amendment in the bill that would stop the prescribed burning of harvestable timber in the Mark Twain National Forest.

The bill is awaiting consideration from the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. Forest Service manages national forests. Brookshire said funding is lacking to correctly manage the forests’ timber, and bureaucratic legislation is in the way.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires the Forest Service to plan and design decisions based on site-specific environmental analysis according to its guidelines. This process is what Brookshire explained makes getting access to the timber so difficult.

Brookshire hopes with the MFPA and Smith, the bureaucratic process can be streamlined, and timber can be used for industry and to create jobs.

Brookshire said using lumber from publicly-owned land can alleviate pressure on private landowners for timber.

Of Missouri’s 14 million acres of forested land, 85 percent is privately owned and 15 percent is publicly owned, according to the MDC study. HAVCO has been in operation in Scott City since 1978 and operates in a 380,000-square-foot facility.

“We are proud of what we do here. We use American lumber and create an American product and want [Smith] to know that American manufacturing is still alive and well,” said Paul Crow, vice president of finance at HAVCO.