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Kentucky Timber Industry Projected to Stay Strong in 2014

Kentucky's timber industry expects a profitable year in 2014 according to an economic impact report issued today during a forest industry meeting in Louisville. 

The report details the timber industry's almost $13 billion contribution to state's economy in 2013. It was more than three percent higher than 2011. The direct impact covers wood products like cabinets and flooring, employment, and trucking.

University of Kentucky Forestry Professor Jeff Stringer helped compile the report and says trends are good for this year.

"As you hear that the U.S. economy improves overall, you hear things like housing starts are up, and that bodes well for our wood industries,” Stringer said. “So 2014 from that perspective is starting out well.”

Stringer says there are some 1,800 logging firms across Kentucky. Still, the cost of fuel, tires, and truck parts has stressed the logging industry.

"The wood is growing the amount that's adequate for harvest, for a good sustainable harvest, and our logging sector, while fragile, is still functioning and still able to cut and haul the material that’s needed by our industry," Stringer added.

While there are timber manufacturers for end products in Kentucky, Stringer says it's a business sector which could see further growth.

Insect infestation also affects Kentucky's woodlands. Risks to ash and hemlock trees are well known, but the UK forestry professor says oaks could also be threatened in the future.

"Anything that affects oaks is important," Stringer said. "That's why we watch the gypsy moth that is real heavy in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and is wanting to move into Kentucky. So, we keep an eye on that."

Stringer says oak trees comprise between 30 to 40 percent of all timber in the Commonwealth. ?

Stu Johnson is a reporter/producer at WEKU in Lexington, Kentucky.
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