Market trends for wood updated at forestry field Day

​Ray Mueller


The forestry industry in Wisconsin involves some 1,200 companies who use wood, employ 65,000 persons and generate about $24 billion annually to the state's economy. On the approximately 17 million acres of forest land in the state, about 572 million cubic feet of wood is grown per year, but only 322 million cubic feet are removed, according to data for 2014.

Those and other statistics and industry trends were presented at a forestry field day for northeast Wisconsin woodland owners that was coordinated by the Glacierland Resource Conservation and Development Council. A major portion of the field day costs was funded with a grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board.

The presenter on current markets was Scott Lyon, a Department of Natural Resources forest products service specialist. From his office in Green Bay, he offers technical and marketing support, including for trees damaged by insects, disease or storms, to individuals and forest product companies in 26 counties in approximately the southeastern quarter of Wisconsin.

Scott Lyon

Market overview

Lyon described the broad expanse of the market for various types of wood. This ranges from the major use of pulpwood in Wisconsin for making various types of paper (high quality for printing to toilet tissue) to seven market segments for the hardwood lumber produced in the state.

One major boost for the hardwood market within the past decade was creating a portion of the infrastructure for the oil industry in North Dakota, Lyon indicated. From 2000 to 2010, for instance, the portion of hardwood lumber used for railroad ties and other transportation equipment tripled from 4 to 12 percent.

Another bright spot during that decade was the increase from 35 to 47 percent on how much of the hardwood lumber was made into pellets. Lyon also cited an uptick in the use of wood byproducts for landscape mulches and livestock bedding.

Other percentages on use of hardwood lumber in 2010 were 15 for exports (up from 10 percent in 2000), 9 for flooring, 6 each for millwork and cabinets and 5 for furniture (down from 20 percent in 2000). A major change during that decade was from a 61/39 percent appearance-based to industrial use in 2000 to a 41/59 ratio on those two uses by 2010. The hardwood category includes white and red oak, hard and soft maple, white ash, basswood and walnut.

Supplies and prices

The most recent data for the lumber industry consists of comparisons on supply volumes and prices for the first halves of 2015 and 2016. That data is tabulated for four production regions: the Lake States, Pacific Northwest, South and Northeast/East Canada.

For delivered conifer pulpwood (pine and other species), the per ton price for the Lake States fell from $53.85 in the first half of 2015 to $51.08 for the first half of 2016. The percentage of supply in 2016 compared to 2015 was 90.9.

The supply percentage for the Pacific Northwest jumped to 115 percent for the first of half of 2016 in the comparison while the price dropped from $41.07 to $38.10 per ton. The Northeast/East Canada supply plunged to 69.8 percent, but the price still dropped from $45.10 to $40.01 per ton. In the South, the supply inched up to 103.9 while the price slipped by 22 cents to $33.54 per ton.

Prices were also lower during the first half of 2016 for all four regions for delivered hardwood pulpwood. The Lake States still commanded the highest 2016 first-half price of $50.72 per ton (down from $54.66) as their 2016 first-half supply percentage compared to 2015 was 104.1.

The Northeast/East Canada region had a first half of 2016 price of $47 per ton (down from $52.06) as its supply comparison dipped to 98.9 percent. The South's price was $39.39 per (down from $41.07) on a supply ratio of 94 percent while the Northwest price slipped by 35 cents to $29.18 per ton on a production comparison percentage of 118.1 for the first half of 2016.

Northern hardwood data

In the northern states, monthly price statistics were reported for September 2015 through September of 2016. Walnut held at above $2,000 per thousand board feet; soft and hard maple and white oak were approaching $1,300; red oak and white ash drifted above and below $1,000 during the year; and basswood was worth just under $800 per 1,000 board feet.

Lyon pointed out that buyers accept pulpwood logs at dimensions of 4 to 20 inches up to lengths of 100 inches. Hardwood bolts (logs) of 6 to 16 feet with a width of at least 10 inches are accepted by sawmills while softwood as small as 5 inches in diameter is taken by some, he noted. At times, trucking is a factor in what a sawmill will buy, he added.

Fence posts are made from pine and white and red cedar logs, Lyon said. He noted that white ash prices have been on a downward trend in recent months, dropping to below $900 per 1,000 board feet in September.