Wood industry representatives from various industry associations were queried on the climate of their wood products market, including expectations for 2013 sales. Below are some additional comments by Tom Julia, president of the Composite Panel Association.

Wood & Wood Products: Overall, what are your members’ sales/shipment expectations for 2013 and how do they compare to 2012 figures?

Tom Julia: North American composite panel shipments ended 2012 nearly 1.5% ahead of 2011, thanks mainly to robust, double digit growth in MDF’s performance. This overall growth paralleled the modest recovery in US housing starts, remodeling expenditures and consumer purchasing. Based on CPA’s dues projections, overall panel shipments could rise about 6% this year.

Despite several years of fluctuation, industry production capacity should remain about the same as last year and ownership changes should be more modest. We do not foresee anything as dramatic as the recent sale of Flakeboard to Arauco or the acquisition of Temple-Inland’s (IP) assets by Georgia-Pacific.

W&WP: What will be the biggest challenges to your members and your industry in 2013? What are the biggest opportunities?
Are you still seeing a big consumer demand for sustainable/green certified products?
What current or pending legislation is having, or will have, the greatest impact on the North American composite panel industry and why?

Julia: The US regulatory landscape related to product emissions and biomass continues to be of paramount importance to the composite panel industry.

Notwithstanding the delayed release of the US EPA’s rulemaking to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act and establish the first of its kind national standard, industry continues to move ahead with development of more low emitting and environmentally benign products. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will be releasing the long-awaited amendments to its 2008 Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) for Composite Wood Products, which have also been delayed awaiting the release of the EPA rulemaking early this year. CPA has been an interested stakeholder throughout this process and we’re working with both agencies to advance our commitment to fair and consistent environmental regulation along with fair trade.

Equally if not more important is the complex landscape of energy regulation and governmental definitions that could threaten the feedstock that is critical to the manufacture of many wood by-products. With the last minute, partial extension of the Farm Bill by the US Congress, the composite panel industry and its allied Wood Fiber Coalition (a network of manufacturing and agricultural organizations and companies) will continue to advocate for a definition of biomass that protects the raw material base needed for higher value products. Free market access to this raw material should never be jeopardized by governmental mandates and/or subsidies that would divert it for use as fuel.

An exciting new arena for CPA is our Eco-Certified Composite (ECC) Standard and Sustainability Program for manufacturers of composite panels, wood components and finished products, launched in early 2012. The North American composite panel industry has been a leader in environmental stewardship and we’re advancing that position with ECC. In less than one year, more than 80% of composite panel manufacturing in North America is already ECC-compliant. The next step, the ECC Finished Products program, is pushing this certification downstream to make it directly relevant to retailers and end-consumers. As a result, we expect the ECC program to be further embraced this year by laminators as well as manufacturers of wood components and furniture. In all cases ECC certification requires a rigorous annual audit, so compliance is always verified.

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