Turtle Pond Raft

Big Markets, Bigger Frustrations: Commercialization of Smallwood Products


Untapped markets for value-added smallwood and minimally processed wood products exceed 100,000 tons per year (4,500 truckloads) in the western United States. Although the tonnage is modest compared to the total biomass from forest health thinnings, the contribution to community sustainability and system economics is large. Purchase of this volume of roundwood under stewardship contracting would return over $4 million to the forest stewardship fund, enabling thinning of an additional 10,000 acres per year. Production of known products would add approximately 600 jobs to rural communities.

To-date, we have been able to capture only a fraction of the market. The minimum profitable producer price (MPPP) for smallwood products generally exceeds the price of non-wood products imported into the region. Agency customers at all levels are generally unaware of procurement preferences and incentives that are already on the books. Many design standards are ossified, and the process to modernize them can take years. Job reassignments and turnover among specifiers and buyers is rampant, making education difficult and costly. Isolated success stories show that the effort to capture the potential market is not a lost cause.

This presentation describes a range of smallwood products that have existing markets. Challenges to commercialization are drawn from our experience over the past seven years of commercial sales. A grass-roots activist approach is proposed as the short-term solution to market-based obstacles. We propose to educate citizen advisory councils, watershed groups, RAC leaders, and community councils who provide oversight, vigilance, and advice to local agency managers.

About the Publication 

Dooley, J.H. 2004. Big Markets, Bigger Frustrations: Commercialization of Smallwood Products. Presented at SmallWood 2004, Sacramento, CA.

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