Ag notes: Woodlands could be your farm’s hidden asset
BY JERRY LITTLE
Maximizing every bit of profit from your farm is a key to success. As a landowner, one thing that may not be at the top of your mind is your farm’s woodlands, but you should manage them just like crops, fields, gardens or other agricultural endeavors.
You can benefit by understanding the industry and learning basic forestry concepts, such as how to control light and density, manage pests and steward a forest to make it healthier and sustainable. You should also learn about the important tax benefits for timber owners and secondary markets that may be available for nontimber products such as hunting leases, ginseng, shiitake mushrooms and fence posts.
It may surprise you to learn that timber, the majority of it privately grown and processed, is one of the largest agriculture and natural resource industries in Kentucky. The statistics are impressive: Kentucky ranks as one of the top three hardwood producing states in the United States. More than 12 million acres, almost half of Kentucky’s land base, is forestland. According to the Kentucky Division of Forestry, the total economic impact of Kentucky’s forests and related industries contributes nearly $13 billion each year to the state’s economy, and it employs more than 50,000 people. Most of Kentucky’s forests consist of hardwoods, with oaks, yellow poplar, hickories, ash, cherry and walnut contributing to the economic value of the industry.
Woodlands also are valuable for services beyond timber production including providing habitat to a wealth of wildlife, from black bears to bobcats. They serve as a backdrop for much of the recreational and tourist activities in the state. Another important contribution of woodlands, but harder to put a dollar figure on, are the ecosystem services such as water and air filtration, carbon sequestration and flood control they provide.
More than 11 million of Kentucky’s 12 million forested acres are classified as timberland, meaning they are capable of growing commercial timber at a rate of 115 board feet of wood volume per acre per year. (A board foot is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch). Logging in Kentucky is renewable, as tree growth in the state exceeds annual timber removal. The industry also ensures that commercial operations have a Master Logger graduate on-site and follow best management practices for protecting water quality at harvest sites.
Sawmills and other industries produce much less waste than in the past, utilizing all but 5 percent of wood residue, down from 35 percent in the 1970s. Advances in machinery and utilization of sawdust and bark residue have fueled this significant reduction in waste. Mulch, fuel, composite wood products, charcoal and animal bedding are made from leftover wood, reducing the industry’s impact on the environment.
If you are interested in learning more about how to realize a potential economic value from forestland, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offers technical training classes and programs, professional forestry workshops, technical publications, logger training and more. Each fall, UK Forestry and Natural Resources offers the Woodland Owners Short Course, an annual learning conference, with two different experience levels. The 2017 course in Eastern Kentucky is Aug. 12 and the Western Kentucky course is Aug. 26. For more information about the course, visit http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/wosc.
For more information about Kentucky forests, visit http://forestry.ca.uky.edu/extension-home or contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.
Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.
Jerry Little, County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources