LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The East Texas timber industry is remaining strong, despite the continuing woes of the oil industry.
Industry experts believe the falling prices are allowing for smaller companies to save money when it comes to transportation of lumber.
"Trees are heavy, wood is heavy, and we have to truck them from where we log them on the landowners property to the mill," said SFA Associate Professor of Silviculture Jeremy Stovall. "If diesel prices are lower, that means more money the landowners make off their forest product because it is cheaper."
It's more than just the transportation cost that are affected. Stovall said companies are seeing savings with harvesting.
"Our harvesting operations use heavy equipment that use a lot of diesel, and so when diesel is cheap, harvesting is cheap," Stovall said.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller visited with foresters and farmers at the Texas A&M Forest Pest Seminar. Miller discussed several topics including the economy and how it is affected by timber.
"Somebody else's pain is another persons pleasure," Miller said.
Miller also highlighted the plan for Texas to use a new international market with Cuba as a way to help timber sales in the Lone Star State. The communist nation recently had a 54-year-old trade embargo with the United States lifted. Miller said in the past the state has been able to sale to the country for humanitarian purposes on, but now new trade agreements could see timber, cattle and produce sales increase.
"All of their infrastructure and buildings are is dilapidated and they will use timber," Miller said. "We are going down there soon, and I don't know if we will have a deal this time, but we are trying to get one. We are 900 miles away and for a freighter that is not far at all. We feel they will buy from us and not Florida because relations are still tense there."
Miller said he has meetings with countries from Central and South America set up at the upcoming Houston livestock Show and Rodeo. Miller said he will be pushing timber and cattle sales to those countries as well.
"Nicaragua, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuelan, of course Mexico is a good customer of ours," Miller said. "It is easy to do business. People want to do business with Texas. We are the last great place in the United States."
Experts we spoke to did agree that the industry is also suffering in some aspects. New home production is down right now and is creating a surplus of timber.
Miller said the same can be said about crop production also.
"Texas agriculture is going to go from $115 billion industry to $75 billion industry in the next fiscal year, and that concerns me," Miller said. "Our dollar is so strong that exports have dropped off. Our farmers are going to have to make some pretty critical decisions in the next 30 to 60 days."