Crossties

JAN-FEB 2018

Crossties is published for users and producers of treated wood crossties.

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RTA EVENT CALENDAR CONTACT US RTA EVENT CALENDAR CONTACT US ADVERTISE Stella-Jones Corp. Railway Tie Association Wheeler Lumber Nisus Corporation MiTek Industries CROSSTIES • JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 17 SAWMILL FOCUS fter a recent inquiry from a member, RTA Executive Director Jim Gauntt reached out to the Hardwood Federation (HF) on the subject of hardwood saw log exports to China. "I asked HF Executive Director Dana Lee Cole to help us determine if there was a meaningful way to develop an industry-wide educational message on how to best bal- ance the needs of American sawmills with the needs for some industry members who ship logs to China," Gauntt said. Cole responded with outreach to hard- wood industry executives. This outreach resulted in a call between 23 hardwood as- sociation executives to explore the impacts log exports were having on each other's respective members. As part of the preparation for that call, some data developed by the Hardwood Market Report (HMR) was distributed. Figure 1, U.S. Exports of Hardwood Logs, clearly illustrates that the United States is hardly at the peak of export volume. In 2005, for example, U.S. exports were close to 550MMBF. In 2016, they were just over 450MMBF, and 2017 was tracking along at the same YTD pace through October. "The issue isn't as much volume," said HMR Editor Judd Johnson. "It's that the species mix and quality of the log being exported have changed." An example of this can be seen in Figure 2, which illustrates China's growing appetite for U.S. Red Oak saw logs. As has been reported by HMR and oth- ers, the issue of saw log exports can be divisive since it impacts loggers and saw- mills in different ways in different parts of the United States. Some businesses thrive on a mix of exporting sawn products and logs to the rest of the world, and others, like the RTA member who put out a call for help, are finding it impossible to compete for logs to saw ties from. "Part of the problem is there isn't a lot of quality data, just a lot of anecdotal information that differs from region to region," Cole said. That became clear during the call and was one of the reasons that led the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) to begin developing hard data on the subject. For example, one executive reported that fewer logs were going from his area because payment issues had sur- faced. Another executive reported that the value of the exports was actually now lower because high-quality veneer log demand was being replaced by lower quality saw logs. "The need to understand the Chinese market better will help producers learn if this is a long-term secular change that will impact sawmills who cut ties permanently, or if it is a transitory trend that could lead to problems for loggers and mills if the log-demand-spigot is abruptly turned off," Gauntt said. To help with this, in addition to the re- search that AHEC is doing, HF has added a portal to its website where anyone can add comments on the impacts of log exports to China or the rest of the world. That web link is https://www.votervoice.net/THF/Sur- veys/4330/Respond RTA encourages members to share their voice on the subject—good, bad or indiffer- ent—by commenting on the subject in this portal. As for further action, RTA will continue to participate in calls and meetings on the subject and help quantify the issue and its impacts on members as clearly as possible in the coming year. If any member would like RTA to post comments to the portal for them please write ties@rta.org and we will pass them along on your behalf. FIGURE 1 FIGURE 2 Review Seeks To Help Industry Understand Chinese Market For Logs A

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