WEST MONROE, LA — After several years of market fluctuations, the Louisiana timber industry is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That is the optimism shared by forestry professionals during the 2023 Forestry Forum held as a part of AgExpo recently in West Monroe. Luke Stamper, a wildlife and forestry agent in the LSU AgCenter Northeast Region, said the annual meeting brings growers, researchers, tax professionals and others together from around the region to share information and to ask questions. “This year, our forum theme centered around markets, which covers the areas that are of most interest to producers,” he said. “This included timber markets, carbon markets and housing markets, and we got updates on each of these market trends.” Stamper said some of the major challenges that growers have had are being addressed now with the opening of several new mills in the state. “It has been a serious challenge for growers when they had to wonder where they would be able to sell their timber,” Stamper said.The topic that continues to be popular year after year at the meeting is timber tax tips.Because growing timber is a fairly long-term process, an understanding of the estate and gift taxes are very important, said Paul Spillers, a tax attorney and tree farmer. “There are three types of timber ownership, which include personal use or hobby, investment and business, and we have each type in the state,” he said. Jinggang Guo, AgCenter economist, said high mortgage rates have been a driving factor in the price of lumber for several years. “When the mortgage rates are high, the lumber market shuts down,” he said. “The price of lumber is just getting back to pre-Covid levels.” Buck Vandersteen, executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association, said the timber industry is growing and being recognized as a sustainable supplier. He said Louisiana timber landowners are now growing more. than 70% more timber than is being harvested.”We believe the four new sawmills and the three green-fuel plants that are coming in will use the excess wood that we are growing, which should help to stabilize prices,” he said. AgCenter Northeast Region director Melissa Cater said this forum is not only valuable to the growers, but it’s good for the economy of the entire region.”Just here in the Northeast Region, forest products contribute a gross farm value of a little over $89 million to the economy,” she said. “So it’s important for landowners and others in the industry to have access to information like this.” Others on the program discussed forest genetics, what to expect from the timber market this year and an update on US Department of Agriculture programming through the Natural Resources. Conservation Service.