A Look at the Mississippi Timber Industry from the Woods

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Youre probably getting a lot of packages delivered to your door this time of year. All of those boxes help create demand for the renewable timber market. However, demand is still needed to build up the timber market.

Loggers interrupt the stillness as another job begins near Brandon, Mississippi.

“If it doesn’t rain, we’re probably going to be working, it served us pretty well for a lot of years,” said Ken Martin, owner of Mar-Cal Incorporated. “My granddaddy planted trees. My daddy and uncle had pine timber and cattle.”

For this job, loggers will complete a first thinning.

“We are trying to take out the overtopped and lesser quality trees to leave more room for the better quality trees to grow to a marketable product,” said Martin.

Martin’s products will go right to the mill, likely to be made to paper products.

“The ability to sell it and unload it is about as important to us as price is,” said Martin.

Opportunities have been slim for some in the state’s timber industry, depending on where loggers take their products.

Some mills are competitive, paying top dollar for trees others cannot. There’s a slowing paper market, as newspapers and books shift online. Also, impact s of Hurricane Katrina still haunts some of the industry. It’s impacted some prices.

“We are still under a $25 per ton range, which is pretty low compared to 15 to 20 years ago when it was $40 to $50 per ton,” said Marc Measells, Mississippi State University Extension Associate.

Measells says the housing market crash last decade is still a factor, even though it’s improved.

“[Even so], when you have half the demand you did from 15 or 12 years ago, it really hurts us,” said Measells.

However, there are some positives. The growth of online shopping turns in to more cardboard boxes.

Yet, as loggers like Martin work year-round, they are glad to see trucks off to the mill.

“It started out as a way to diversify our family farm and I have always liked it,” said Martin. “We get up and go every morning and make the best out of what opportunity we have that day.”

They plan their next destination off another road, as another job presents itself.

Both of them in the report say there are more pellet mills coming to Mississippi with a goal of shipping them overseas. They both hope this will aid the industry too.