Hurricane-damaged trees that flooded the market and drove prices down are the primary cause for an expected 9.6 percent decline in Mississippi's timber harvest value.

Marc Measells, a research and Extension associate with Mississippi State University's Department of Forestry, recently predicted the state's timber harvest value at $1.3 billion in 2006, compared to $1.45 billion the previous year. He based his estimate on timber severance tax collections and timber prices through October.

2006 was a striking contrast to 2005, when the state's No. 2 agricultural commodity's value increased almost 16 percent from the previous year. Forestry ranks just behind poultry in Mississippi with an estimated value of almost $2 billion.

“The decreased value for 2006 is a result of the decline in prices for all products. Average prices for pine sawtimber dropped by 6.3 percent through October,” Measells said. “Mixed hardwood sawtimber declined by almost 10 percent, while oak sawtimber declined by almost 14 percent. Pine pulpwood prices have declined more than 9 percent and hardwood pulpwood prices declined 18.6 percent for the year.”

Measells said Hurricane Katrina interrupted lumber production and disrupted timber markets, especially in south Mississippi, in 2005. When harvest resumed, many landowners worked quickly to sell damaged trees before they lost more quality, thus dumping a large amount of poor quality trees on the market.

“As a result, the standing and delivered timber prices have fallen significantly across the state in 2006,” he said. “Other factors contributing to the declining prices included rising imports and energy costs as well as the declining residential housing market.”

Glenn Hughes, Extension forestry professor in south Mississippi, said the housing market historically has a significant influence on timber prices. That continues to be true despite increased use of imported wood, primarily from Canada.