Wood marketing board turns to U.S. after snub in N.B.

The general manager of the Carleton Victoria Forest Products Marketing Board says her organization is pivoting toward the United States after getting a cold shoulder from big wood buyers in New Brunswick.

Linda Bell said wood sales to Maine have jumped from 12 percent 10 years ago to 40 per cent of sales today.

What's more, the companies there have been a pleasure to deal with, Bell said.

"They're looking to buy wood when they come. We work through it, and the contract's done. It's all together different with the New Brunswick mills."

Two main customers

Bell said the wood is mainly going to Louisiana-Pacific Corp. in Limerick, Maine, and J.M. Huber Corp. in Easton.

She said AV Nackawic Inc. and J.D. Irving, Limited won't even negotiate with her marketing board.

Both companies, she said, are making deals directly with woodlot owners or with contractors.

The arrangement allows the board to collect levies on the sale but gives it no part in the negotiations or the price.

JDI is using the same practice with the Southern New Brunswick board and the board for York, Sunbury and Charlotte counties in Fredericton.

-  New Brunswick Crown forestry debate

In a statement, JDI vice-president Mary Keith confirmed contracts are not being negotiated with the boards directly.

"All our private wood continues to be transacted through the board under direct contracts with wood producers and woodlot owners," Keith said. "All required levies and payments continue to be made to the board according to the terms of the applicable contract."

JDI and AV Nackawic are involved in a lawsuit against the Southern New Brunswick Forest Products Marketing Board and its sister group, the SNB Wood Cooperative, in a case that is being closely watched by all seven of the province's wood marketing boards.

The suit followed an attempt by the SNB board to assert its regulatory authority under the Natural Products Act over wood sales in its provincially designated territory.

The order declared that wood from private woodlots can only be sold to the marketing board, and wood purchasers can only buy from the board.

Susannah Banks, the manager of the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners, said the province's 2014 increase in the allocation of Crown forestland to big companies is making it easy for those companies to ignore the boards.

"Between the two of them, [JDI and AV Nackawic] control 80 percent of round wood in the province," said Banks. 
"If you only have a few major players who control both supply and demand they can basically set the price at will."

Pleased with progress

Last month, JDI placed a half-page ad in the Telegraph-Journal newspaper claiming it is on track to purchase more wood from private woodlots than ever before.

AV Group, with mills in Nackawic and Atholville, has applied to be an intervener in the lawsuit.

In the meantime, a related appeal by JDI to the New Brunswick Forest Products Commission is scheduled to be heard March 14 and 15.

The company is challenging the validity of the SNB Marketing Board order.

Commission chair Brian Mosher told CBC News the two-day hearing will likely be held in private.

Commission hearings are, by default, open but can be closed if members agree.