The director of the Louisiana Forestry Association told foresters at a March 12 conference that several industries are planning to locate in Louisiana that would use wood to make biofuels and fertilizers.

“If you are in the logging business, here’s great opportunity for you,” said Buck Vandersteen at the LSU AgCenter Forestry Forum attended by more than 150 foresters from across the state.

The companies want to know if timber will be taken from sustainable forests, and they want assurances that lumber companies are harvesting wood in environmentally acceptable methods.

“If you are in a certified program, it will pay dividends for you,” Vandersteen said.

New facilities are being planned or considered for the town of Urania, Natchitoches, and the parishes of Morehouse, Pointe Coupee Parish and Rapides, along with another in southwest Louisiana. A closed sawmill near Coushatta may re-open.

In addition to the prospect of new business, lumber prices have increased slightly.

Foresters also learned that the current spring weather pattern is a phase that is the least predictable for the Gulf Coast region, according to Jay Grymes, LSU AgCenter climatologist.

While statewide rainfall during 2012 was near normal, the previous two years -- 2010 and 2011 -- were among some of the driest years ever for Louisiana. Grymes said that several climatic signals suggest that dry weather and drought spells like those during 2010 and 2011 could become more common over the next 10 to 15 years for the Bayou State.

A major factor in predicting Gulf Coast weather are the La Niña and El Nino weather patterns that result from flip-flopping water temperatures over the central Pacific Ocean.

El Nino, the name given to periods when the Pacific waters are warmer than normal, typically results in more winter and spring rainfall for the Gulf region, while La Nina usually results in less rain. Currently, Grymes said, neither condition exists. “So our ability to predict the longer-term weather trends is at its weakest.”

The southeast and northwest areas of the state have been dry so far this year, while much of the rest of the state has been exceptionally wet.

Also at the forum, foresters got a refresher on pipeline safety, an overview of mineral leasing laws in Louisiana, a talk on tax law changes and a presentation on using compressed natural gas as a fuel in fleet vehicles in addition to a talk by Mike Strain, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.