IS FAIRNESS FINALLY COMING FOR WOODLOT OWNERS?
January 24, 2020
After years of disappointment and frustration, 2020 promises to be a pivotal year in restoring fairness for private woodlot owners in New Brunswick’s forestry sector.
The Higgs government has promised to give private woodlots a larger share of the market to supply mills while freezing for five years the amount that can be taken from Crown land.
“The provincial government is responding to the concerns of private woodlot owners and moving in the right direction.
People who care about the future of our forests, our trading relationship with the United States and a fair wood marketing system are pleased with the government plan, announced just before Christmas. While there are still details to be worked out, the provincial government is responding to the concerns of private woodlot owners and moving in the right direction.
Our private woodlots have been marginalized and minimized over the past decade as industrial interests pushed for access to more and more of the public forest, despite the economic distortions it inevitably caused. The market share for private wood today is running at about 17 per cent when it should be closer to the historic level of around 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the share of Crown wood has jumped to more than 50 per cent.
OUR FEARS AND WARNINGS HAVE FALLEN ON DEAF EARS, UNTIL NOW.
Finally, thanks to Premier Blaine Higgs and Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Holland, we are promised action and we are looking forward to seeing the concrete steps this government will take to restore equity in wood marketing.
“There needs to be legislation put in place that allows the seven marketing boards to do their job.
While I am optimistic, I am cautiously so – there isn’t a lot of detail yet from the government. There will be meetings and discussions to sort out the path forward, but there is a key element we at the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners must see to ensure success: recognition of the system of forest products marketing boards as sole authority for the marketing of private wood.
Essentially, there needs to be legislation put in place that allows the seven marketing boards to do their job, which is to negotiate fair prices and fair delivery schedules.
“All other avenues to access that supply need to be closed.
We need to go back to the days when there was one source for private wood – the marketing boards. It means purchasers will not be allowed to sidestep the boards to deal directly with brokers and contractors, and they can’t deal directly with woodlot owners. There is one place to sit down and negotiate to buy wood from the private woodlot sector and it’s at the local marketing board. All other avenues to access that supply need to be closed.
A FREEZE ON CROWN WOOD PERPETUATES THE PROBLEM
Hand in hand with marketing access is market share. It does not help to promise private woodlots a bigger share of the market if that market already is saturated thanks to overly generous Crown wood allocations. A freeze on Crown wood simply perpetuates the status quo.
“If Crown wood is less than 50% of industrial consumption, it would eliminate the chief reason for U.S. tariffs on timber exports.
The government will have to find a way to make room for more private wood and, unless there are new mills coming to the province, the only solution is to roll back the existing Crown supply. An added benefit: if Crown wood is less than 50 per cent of industrial consumption, it would eliminate the chief reason for U.S. tariffs on timber exports.
In short, the Higgs government has succeeded in raising the hopes of private woodlot owners with its pre-Christmas pledge of more market share. But now the tough work begins. There must be legislation to put in force the government’s good intentions of restoring fairness in forestry. We all know that good intentions only get you so far – concrete actions in the form of legislative directives are essential.
Thank you for listening,
Rick Doucett President, New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners