Agribusiness breakfast focuses on forestry industry and economy

Agribusiness breakfast focuses on forestry industry and economy

COFFEE CO., AL (WSFA) - Grits, eggs, and discussion about Alabama's forestry industry and economy. That's how dozens of tree farmers and forestry experts spent their morning in Enterprise.

The Coffee County Forest Planning Committee hosted the Agribusiness Breakfast.

"Coming together for agriculture is important for the state of Alabama because it's the main industry in the state and forestry being the leading one as we see it," said Adam Bowers, County Forester Supervisor.

Forestry is one of the largest industries in the state, "We employ 41,000 people across the state and we have operations in every county in the state," said Rick Oates, Alabama State Forester, "We have about 812 businesses that employ those people. We ship out roughly 16 billion in forest products."

Not just a money maker for the state, but counties, "Based off some 2013 numbers that were put out by the Extension Service, there is a 20 million dollar impact here in Coffee County," said Bowers.

Forestry Products from state tree farmers are shipped across the country and around the world. Although it's a good chunk of Alabama's economy, Bowers and Oates don't think the current trade war with China will pinch tree farmers, but it may impact consumers.

Bowers says with the state forestry industry a lot of products shipped overseas are in raw form. The logs are turned into finished product and shipped back to the U.S. to be sold, "If we're going tit for tat, tariff for tariff, I suspect you could see an increase just simply in the cost of finished products. It'd be in the furniture you buy that's prefabricated in China."

According to the International Trade Center, wooden furniture is one of the top 20 list of U.S. imports from China. 3.01 billion was spent on wooden furniture last year.

Bowers says in terms of buying for construction - it shouldn't be a big concern for consumers, "Generally if you go by a board at Lowe's or Home Depot or at your local hardware store - it was most likely cut within a 60 mile radius of that area, so that's not a big concern."

He says the big focus right now for tree farmers should be continued growth, "We're looking at trying to encourage more landowners to plant more trees of course and try to maintain the forests we do have."

"I'm excited to see the expansions in the forestry industry," said Oates, "Rex Lumber in Troy, International Beams in Dothan. Those are facilities that are being built that really represent some great growth in this industry and a lot of jobs and an improved future for forestry in Alabama."

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