Thursday, May 4, 2006
Marshall forestry draws recognition
By SUE WATSON
Just 10 years ago Marshall County foresters organized an association which today has about 200 members and frequently scoops up the top awards at the Mississippi Forestry Association.
They have done it with an active membership and with a close relationship with Mississippi Forestry Service and the Marshall County Extension Office.
Former county agent Ronnie Jones and Eddie Pou, former Marshall County forestry agent, began the Association in 1996, according to Robert Tyson, one of the membership.
Art Waymire took the Mississippi Tree Farmer of the Year and has continued actively representing the industry at the state level, serving as first vice president of the Mississippi Forestry Association this year and in position of association president next year.
Wallace Johnson, a founding member, has received the Tree Farmer of the Year award from both Mississippi and Tennessee state forestry associations.
Tyson said Mississippi has over 5,000 tree farms, more than any other state and that 61 percent of the state is forest land. Forestry ranks second as the top agricultural crop in the state.
Since there is not much tree land in the delta, and some counties join together to form one member association, there are 65 member associations in the state.
Marshall County Forestry Association has been rated top county forestry association several times in its short 10-year history. The outstanding project award also went to Marshall for Youth forestry field day, a showcase educational activity the association emphasizes most.
The association also sponsors Arbor Day programs at Montrose and Wood Magic workshops for school children.
“I think one of the main things we do is educate youngsters in the value of forestry to the county economy,” Tyson said.
Marshall County has won the Best County Forestry Association award by the state association twice and honorable mention once, Tyson said.
About 50 percent of Marshall County’s farmland is in trees, according to estimates provided to Tyson from Ronnie Johnson, tax assessor. That comes to about 210,000 acres of forest land with another 60,000 acres of timber in National Forest land in the county.
Tyson said Marshall County Forestry Association encourages landowners to put unused farm acreage in tree farms. Government programs like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) make it easier to get started in tree farming by paying for a portion of the seedlings and land preparation, Tyson said.
“As more agricultural land becomes idle, tree farming offers an alternative to letting the land lie unused,” he said.
The forestry industry provides 35,000 jobs for workers in Northeast Mississippi, according to recent statistics from the state association.
Tyson would like to see more wood products companies in Marshall County which would reduce the fuel cost for transporting chips and saw dust products to places like Grenada. Hauling of products takes some of the profit out of the raw material market, he said.
Most tree farmers invest in the forestry industry as a way to leave something for their children and grandchildren, Tyson said. His farm has been handed down through the generations since the Chickasaw Cession of land in Marshall County in 1836.
“A lot of people go into forestry because of idle row crop land or they inherited land, in my case, and then rented it out for cotton and found there is more profit in pine,” Tyson said.
Some of the risks in tree farming include arson, pine beetles and natural disasters such as tornados, he said.
The pluses are the government programs that cover about 50 percent of the cost of seedlings, planting and land preparation, and the CRP program which pays rent for farmers to raise trees, which Tyson said more than covers the cost of taxes and operating expenses.
Tyson got involved in the Forestry Association after his retirement and move back to Holly Springs.
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