In 2010 the dominant factor affecting profitability was fuel prices. Loggers require fuel for the equipment that is used to harvest timber and for the trucks to deliver that timber to a mill. Diesel fuel prices doubled from 2003 to 2010 from $1.488 to $2.964 per gallon (US Energy Information Administration). All questions related to travel distances and fuel usage were new to the 2010 questionnaire.
Wisconsin’s logging businesses have increasingly high levels of capital investment, with inflation adjusted (2010 USD) median levels increasing from 2003 to 2010 for all but chainsaw based harvesting systems. We report capital investment in median dollars, as there is quite a large variability in the amount investment both between systems and amongst businesses.
This morning op-ed from David Brooks deals with the fundamental difference from between social and physical sciences, and their application in the real world. It is useful in helping people think through what the social sciences can help us discern about problem-solving in the world. The snippet and link from The New York Times...
In 2003 most logging businesses were organized as one-person, owner-operator businesses with no employees. However, given the nature of the sector, we may have missed an important aspect of the labor situation in the 2003 study, the use of subcontractors. For 2010, we found that logging businesses were equally or more likely to use subcontractors than they were to have employees. It also appears that there is a slight shift toward larger businesses. The average number of full-time equivalent employees rose to 2.5 in 2010 from 1.8 in 2003.
Wisconsin loggers are the backbone of the wood products industry, a primary contributor to the Wisconsin economy and the sustainable management of forests in the state. In 2003 the median age of a logging business owner was 46, with most falling in the 35-54 year range. In 2010, we found that business owners had nearly “aged in place” with the median rising to 52 years and most in the 45-64 year range. Notably, the percentage of owners who have spent 30 or more years logging (not necessarily as an owner) in 2010 was nearly double that of 2003.
Many factors affect the profitability of businesses. Understanding which do and which don’t have implications how we structure public policy and how wood-using industries make procurement decisions. Wisconsin logging businesses rated the importance of 11 factors that could affect their profitability during their 2003 and 2010 production years. Respondents in both surveys indicated that all factors were either “somewhat important” or “very important.”
For both 2003 and 2010, loggers were asked to qualitatively assess their company’s profitability. Possible responses ranged from “very poor” to “excellent” with a mid-point indicating “average/broke even” ("good" and "excellent" are combined for analysis).
Wisconsin logging businesses have not experienced much change in terms of the way they harvest and process trees. We compared the harvest systems that respondents used to fell and process timber by their 2003 and 2010 production years. For our analysis, we separated survey respondents into one of four categories based on their use of one or more harvesting technologies.
On Monday, 22 April, The Council on Forestry will discuss a series of sub-committee recommendations that might form the basis of legislative changes. The sub-committee's report is available here.
Over the next 15 weeks we will share the findings from the survey of the logging sector conducted in 2011. Each week will feature a different aspect of the survey findings, with an emphasis on comparing the 2011 data to those collected in 2004. That is, we will compare the 2003 and 2010 production years. After the series, we will move these summaries toward a comprehensive print publication.
Right now, the outline looks like this…