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Forestry Maintains Top Billing in Agriculture
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In a continuing neck-and-neck battle for the No. 1 spot in Mississippi agriculture, forestry is expected to maintain its lead ahead of poultry and eggs with each passing the billion dollar mark again in 1995.
Posting an estimated harvest value of $1.1 billion, forestry gained about $36 million ahead of 1994 figures.
Poultry and eggs are estimated at almost $1.09 billion in 1995, an increase of $50 million.
Dr. Bob Daniels, extension forestry specialist at Mississippi State University, said a good year for the pulp and paper business and a strong export market played major roles in the 1995 increase.
"The South is becoming the wood basket of the nation, and Mississippi is fortunate to be in the heart of the South," Daniels said.
"The forest products industry provides 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs in Mississippi and will be with us for a long time," Daniels said. "Reforesting after harvest is an important contribution landowners make toward economic development. Future forest harvest values will reflect forest stewardship and the good markets that are here for our timber."
Daniels said the recent strong increases in timber harvest volume and prices are leveling out after major jumps from 1991 to 1993. The development of competitive timber markets in North Mississippi in the past eight years and the spotted owl conflict in the Pacific Northwest has helped Mississippi's timber harvest values rise to a new level.
Forestry has set record highs in value of production in eight of the last nine years. The only non-record year was 1991 when Persian Gulf War concerns resulted in economic uncertainties and a rainy spring reduced Mississippi's harvest.
"Based on timber severance tax collection reports, the first three-quarters of 1995 posted more than a 3 percent increase compared to 1994," Daniels said. "This modest increase is part of the leveling trend of the last couple of years."
Prices in 1995 varied with pine selling on average about 6 percent higher and hardwoods selling about 6 percent lower.
Daniels said high numbers of Southern pine beetles forced more timber to the market in '95 than landowners might have cut otherwise. The additional trees on the market resulted in pine prices declining since June. He said beetle numbers probably will be significant again in 1996 unless the state experiences a severe winter.
"Forest landowners should get to work on putting their forestland into full production because the economic outlook for Mississippi timber is bright," Daniels said.