Mississippi’s forestry industry sends products worldwide. Supplying international markets requires strong local roots. “I can’t overstate the importance of the relationship between Mississippi landowners, loggers and wood products companies that all work together for our industry to prosper and put everyday products (sourced and made in Mississippi) in the hands of people all around the world,” says Tedrick Ratcliff, Mississippi Forestry Association executive vice president. Ken Martin from Cato describes how global trade impacts the state’s forestry economy. “When I started logging in 1976, the forestry industry sent a lot of hardwood to chip mills for export,” says Martin, president of the Mississippi Loggers Association. That lessened as trade policy and exchange rates changed during the 1980s, he says. Martin’s business has always focused on pine: select cutting of pine pulpwood, chip-n-saw and sawtimber to improve existing stands of natural timber. “The last several years, we’ve been more involved with pine plantation thinning, as well as pine chip-n-saw and sawtimber, as markets seem to be rebounding from a few years of depressed markets.” Martin’s two sons, Brent and Brad, both joined the family business upon graduation from Mississippi State University (MSU). The family expanded its logging area, seeking out higher-value pine stands from forests that are managed better using progressive practices, such as improved herbicide application and sustainable timber management. “Better forests give us better products,” says Martin, whose family’s six log trucks now haul pine pulpwood, chip-n-saw, and sawtimber up to 100 miles. Tree improvement has helped. “Today’s loblolly pine stands produce nearly 50 to 60 percent more than in the 1970s,” says Randy Rousseau, MSU forestry extension specialist. Today’s improved stock, selected from across the South, provides better growth, stem form, disease resistance and overall improved forest health. “In some portions of the state, we grow twice the amount of timber as is harvested with quality at the forefront of the forest management plan objectives,” says Ratcliff. Markets drive such sustainable management. “In the mid-1990s, we saw a shift in the southern pine industry toward more value-added products,” says Rousseau. “Now, there’s more emphasis on growing seedlings with the improved stem qualities such as straightness, lack of forking, smaller branch diameters and more horizontal branching all of which is needed for quality sawtimber.” Sustainably growing high-quality trees for sawtimber is not new; some Mississippians have managed their forests toward that end for generations. “My grandfather purchased our family’s timber holdings here in Macon in 1942,” says David Barge, president of Barge Forest Products Company. “He started a natural regeneration program to repopulate these forests, and an underlying factor was maintaining the forest in natural stand condition,” he says. The family’s various limited partnerships now own just more than 51,000 acres of timberland. In 1985, Barge’s father, Richard Barge, started Barge Forest Products Co. to peel pine trees from those timberlands for utility poles. The company, now sourcing 70 percent of the timber it cuts from the family’s holdings, opened a specialty sawmill in 1990. It specializes in high-quality pine, maintaining an elite sustainability rating recognized by even the strictest northern European market standards. Exports make up to 40 percent of the company’s sales. Global demand for southern pine has shifted from Europe since the 1990s. “With changes in Europe’s economy, more high-grade southern yellow pine is now going to North Africa, the Middle East and Asia,” says David Barge. The Caribbean continues to be an important market for common southern pine grades. And there are North American markets: Barge Forest Products Co. mills 6-inch-by- 6-inch pine timbers, up to 30 feet long, often used in U.S. farm construction. “We major in longer (timber) lengths,” he says. As landowners, loggers and wood products companies work together, Mississippi is poised to supply newer markets. “We’ve had some exciting announcements for biomass in 2013 – specifically wood pellet plants – and have seen a major traditional wood products plant reopen, bringing state of the art technology to Mississippi,” says Ratcliff.