Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products

SIC 0831

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in growing trees for purposes of reforestation or in gathering forest products. The concentration or distillation of these products, when carried on in the forest, is included in this industry. Forest products typically gathered are: balsam needles, ginseng, huckleberry greens, maple sap, moss (including Spanish and sphagnum varieties), teaberries, and tree gums and barks. The industry also includes forest nurseries; rubber plantations; gathering, extracting, and selling of tree seeds; lac production; and distillation of gums, turpentine and rosin, if carried on at the gum farm.

Industry Snapshot

Like many sectors of the U.S. economy, the forest products industry (FPI) was hurt by the recession of the early to mid-years of the first decade of the 2000s, as evidenced by multiple plant closings and employee lay-offs, but some expressed optimism heading into the 2010s. In addition, the focus in the industry had shifted to sustainability. According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) in 2010, "The U.S. forest products industry's goal is to sustain and expand a renewable resource--our forests--while providing the recyclable and essential products that the public uses every day."

According to Dun & Bradstreet's Industry Reports, the forest nurseries and gathering of forest products industry brought in $674.3 million in revenues in 2009. The industry employed workers in the planting, growing, managing, and harvesting of trees. Oregon, Washington, and California were the largest timber producing states, accounting for roughly three-fourths of Western timber production in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s. Timber was also the South's largest agricultural product, employing one of every nine southern manufacturing workers. The larger sector of wood products manufacturing was valued at $70 billion in 2008 by the AF&PA.

About one-half of the United States is covered with trees. This represents about two-thirds of the pre-settlement forested land in the country. Two-thirds of America's forest land, or about 500 million acres, is classified as timberland, or forest capable of growing 20 cubic feet of wood per acre per year. Of this, roughly 30 percent is owned by the federal government and by state and local governments, while about 60 percent is in relatively small tracts owned by individuals, and the remainder is owned by the forest products industry (FPI). The FPI plants approximately 600 million trees a year in the United States, according to the AF&PA.

Organization and Structure

The term "forest products industry" is used to describe all industries dependent on forest products, including the lumber, wood pulp, and paper industries and those activities covered by SIC 0831. However, those activities covered by SIC 0831 are a relatively small part of total FPI activities.

Since the mid-1950s, the FPI shifted from a proliferation of companies operating in specialized areas toward a consolidation of operations within large, diversified conglomerates with national and international interests. Reflecting these patterns, most forest nurseries and operations involved in the gathering of forest products became affiliated with larger operations in the parent industries of SIC: 6519 Timber Tract Real Estate or SIC 2411: Logging. Furthermore, in 1986 the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system itself was altered to reflect industry trends toward less specific groups. That year, SIC 0831: Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products was created by merging three formerly independent forestry-industry categories: SIC 0821: Forest Nurseries and Seed Gathering, SIC 0842: Extraction of Pine Gum, and SIC 0849: Gathering of Forest Products, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Background and Development

In 1995, approximately five new trees were planted for every American. Approximately 43 percent of these 1.6 billion seedlings were planted by the FPI. Naturally regenerated trees totaled in the millions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, forest nurseries were affected by increased efforts at global reforestation. Fighting on behalf of cleaner air, endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and the ecological preservation of old-growth and tropical forests, environmental groups gained tremendous clout. For example, only 200 pairs of spotted owls were known to be in existence in the 1970s, but by early 1992, approximately 3,510 owl pairs were counted. In 1995, estimates in California alone were as high as 8,000 pairs. In addition, numerous studies tied the effects of deforestation to depletion of the earth's protective ozone layer and the subsequent warming of atmospheric temperatures. Tree nurseries kept up with increased reforestation efforts. During fiscal 1990, public and private forest owners in the United States regenerated 2.86 million acres by tree planting and artificial seeding. Most forest products companies developed third-generation seedlings to genetically maximize growth, height, shape, and resistance to drought and disease on their tree farms. Such seedlings often yielded increases of 50 to 60 percent per acre of timber. From 1985 to 1995, forest product companies spent more than $100 million on wildlife and environmental research, employing more than 90 wildlife biologists. During this time, approximately $400 million of land (about 1 million acres) was donated by the FPI for conservation, recreation, and social causes. In 1994, the industry aligned itself with the U.S. Department of Energy to create Agenda 2020, which is an effort to address environmental and productivity improvements during the twenty-first century.

Many of these efforts were aimed at reversing a decline in U.S. forest acreage that began in the early 1970s and continued into the 1980s. It is estimated that the United States lost nearly 1.5 million acres of forest land each year during this period. However, reforestation efforts began to take hold in the 1990s, and U.S. forest depletion dropped to about 500,000 acres annually. Despite these efforts, government sources still predicted a 4 percent decline in U.S. forest land by 2040. Also continuing into the twenty-first century was the ongoing conflict between those forces that want to use public and private forest land for environmentally conscious purposes and those forces that are market driven. Activists were also beginning to rally against genetically modified trees, fearing that wind-borne pollen, which could travel up to 600 kilometers, would trigger unanticipated hazards.

Approximately 95 percent of the bark and wood residues from producing lumber and plywood were used for energy and other products. By some estimates, more than 90 million short tons of paper and paperboard were used every year in the United States by the 1990s. By then, Americans recovered about 45 percent of all paper used in the United States. By the late 1990s, Americans were using, on a per capita basis, 749 pounds of paper annually, or the equivalent of a tree 100 feet high and 16 inches in diameter. Recycling efforts continued into the first decade of the 2000s, and by 2009, Americans recycled about 60 percent of all paper consumed.

The overall paper and forest products industry went through a revival period in the late 1990s. However, this recovery over previous years was set back by the Asian economic crisis. The driving force behind this improvement was largely due to increased activity in paper and packaging. But as this economic sector retreated markedly in late 1998, the wood products sector, which had been slow earlier, began picking up. This revival continued especially through the last part of 1999.

Exports have played an increasingly important role in the FPI. In fact, according to Standard & Poor's, 65 percent of the industry's shipment growth between 1988 and 1998 came from export sales. In 1998, exports by U.S. paper manufacturers totaled $13.7 billion, the second highest total on record. These exports represented 8 percent of the industry's 1998 shipments. Industry exports of paper, pulp, and various forest products totaled 12 million tons that year. According to the AF&PA, exports of forestry products in 2007 reached $27.4 billion, which represented 10 percent of industry sales.

A majority of people working in the FPI in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s were employed by the U.S. government at either the federal, state, or local level. One job classification in the FPI was that of forester. Foresters worked for private industry and government agencies and performed a wide variety of tasks. Foresters were required to have a bachelor's degree, and many had masters and doctorate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10,230 Americans were employed as foresters in 2009, and the job market was predicted to grow about 12 percent between 2008 and 2018. The average starting salary for foresters was $55,220 in 2009. Another job in the FPI was that of forest and conservation worker. About 5,840 people worked in these positions in 2009, and the average salary was $29,410. Finally, forest and conservation technicians, who compile and analyze data on natural lands such as forests, held 34,000 jobs in the late years of the decade and earned an average annual salary of $36,370. Forestry technicians aided professional foresters in the management of forest resources and worked for government agencies as well as private companies.

Like many other sectors of the U.S. economy, the FPI went through a process of acquisitions and mergers in the late 1990s. Major transactions included a $6.5 billion merger between Jefferson Smurfit and Stone Container in 1998. The resultant Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. became the world's leading paper-based packaging company. In 1999, International Paper Co. acquired Union Camp in a stock deal valued at $7.9 billion, and Weyerhauser reached an agreement to purchase Canada's MacMillan Bloedel for $2.45 billion. According to economist Richard Diamond, these industry mergers and acquisitions were driven by a number of motives including economic efficiency, diversification, self-defense, and market power.

Current Conditions

In the early 2010s, the largest timber holding companies in the United States were also the largest forest nursery and forest product gatherers. Some of the largest forest product companies were International Paper (Memphis, Tennessee), with 2009 sales of $23.3 billion and 56,100 employees; Weyerhaeuser (Federal Way, Washington), with sales of $5.5 billion and 14,900 employees; Boise-Cascade (Boise, Idaho), with sales of $2.3 billion and 4,600 employees; Georgia-Pacific (Atlanta, Georgia), with sales of $12.5 billion and 45,000 employees; and Smurfit-Stone (Chicago, Illinois), with sales of $5.6 billion and 19,000 employees.

Despite the preeminence of these giant companies, many of which are major paper manufacturers, the FPI also is populated with small nurseries, maple syrup producers, owners of small timbered tracts who have them logged for personal income, and even individual ginseng gatherers. Other small companies focus on unique products, such as sphagnum peat moss, bark nuggets, and mulches. Because of the diverse nature of the SIC 0831 classification and the fact that much of the economic activity represented by it comes from individuals and small cottage industries, comprehensive economic statistics are difficult to come by.
One niche of the FPI that does get reported is maple syrup production. In 2009, U.S. forests produced 2.3 million gallons of maple syrup worth $90.7 million. Total production was up from 1.0 million gallons in 2001 and 1.3 million gallons in 2005. New England states were dominant in the production of maple syrup. Vermont produced almost 40 percent of the nation's maple syrup in 2009, generating $32.3 million in value of production. Second and third in terms of value were New York with $17.8 million and Maine with $13.0 million. Wisconsin and Michigan rounded out the top five states, producing $7.3 million and $5.2 million worth of the commodity, respectively. Between 2001 and 2009, U.S. maple syrup exports increased from 396,000 gallons to 954,000 gallons, while imports grew from 4.6 million gallons to 4.8 million gallons. Maple syrup prices increased significantly, from $28.61 per gallon to $37.76 per gallon over the same time period.

Ginseng is a medicinal root that traditionally has been gathered in the wild and exported to China and other Asian countries. Most gathering is done by individuals under permits issued by states. Although wild ginseng commands the highest prices, the herb also is cultivated on farms.

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