2018 Indiana Consulting Foresters Stumpage Timber Price Report

This stumpage report is provided annually and should be used in association with the Indiana Forest Products Price Report and Trend Analysis. Stumpage prices were obtained via a survey to all known professional consulting foresters operating in Indiana. Reported prices are for sealed bid timber sales only (not negotiated sales) between a motivated timber seller and a licensed Indiana timber buyer. The data represents approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total volume of stumpage purchased during the periods from April 16, 2017 through April 15, 2018. This report has been published annually since 2001.

The results of the stumpage price survey are not meant as a guarantee that amounts offered for your timber will reflect the range in prices reported in this survey. The results simply provide an additional source of information to gauge market conditions

Categories of timber reported: The prices reported are broken into three sale types; high quality, average quality, and low quality. A high quality sale has more than 50 percent of the volume in # 2 or better red oak, white oak, sugar maple, black cherry, or black walnut. The low quality sale has more than 70 percent of the volume in # 3 (pallet) grade or is cottonwood, beech, elm, sycamore, hackberry, pin oak, aspen, black gum, black locust, honey locust, catalpa, or sweet gum. The average sale is a sale that is not a low quality or a high quality sale as defined above.

In the 2008 report some minor adjustments were made in the categories from the previous surveys. White ash was previously included as a component of the high quality sales and hickory was previously in the low quality group. No changes have been made in the categories so the 2018 data should compare well with the data collected since 2008.

Decline in sales activity: There were 16 consulting firms that reported in 2018 which is a decline from the 18 firms that reported since 2015. The 3 firms that did not report this year only represented 10 bid sales and 1 negotiated sale in 2017 and 18 bid sales and 4 negotiated sales in 2016. One new firm reported in 2018 and 1 firm split into 2 firms at the end of 2017. The main 14 firms have reported every year since 2011. The data from these 14 firms represents 95 percent of the total sales reported; therefore the data should be very consistent.

In 2017-18 there were 212 sales (plus 8 negotiated sales) which is a significant drop from the 310 sales (plus 16 negotiated sales) held in 2016-17. The number of sales has been declining for several years; 339 sales (plus 20 negotiated sales) in 2015-16, 368 sales (plus 12 negotiated) in 2014-15, and 330 sales (plus 14 negotiated) reported in 2013-2014.

The decline in the number of sales may have been due to several factors including but not limited to recommendations by some foresters to delay their sales until invasive species are controlled as the disturbance created during the harvest tends to exacerbate the spread of the invasive species and increases the cost of their control, a decline in the number of sales in northern Indiana which may be due to a decline in the ability to still salvage the ash mortality (emerald ash borers).

VOLUME of TIMBER SOLD: The total stumpage volume sold declined to 19,630,108 board feet (plus 642,774 board feet in negotiated sales) from 24,700,232 board feet (plus 983,276 board feet in negotiated sales) reported last year which was a drop from 29,044,240 board feet (plus an additional 1,257,863 board feet in negotiated sales) reported in 2016 and a drop from the record high reported of 36,773,866 board feet (plus 683,235 board feet in negotiated sale) reported in 2015. Historically the average amount sold each year has been around 25 million board feet (with the exception of the recession years in 2009 and 2010).

The volume for the high quality sale totaled 6,819,117 board feet which is down somewhat from the 8,089,611 board feet sold last year and the 7,728,890 board feet reported in 2016. The highest total occurred in 2015 when 11,861,259 board feet was reported. The volume sold between 2011 and 2014 was between 8.5 to 8.7 million board feet.

The medium quality sales totaled 12,075,284 board feet with is also down from the 14,928,599 board feet reported last year which was down significantly from the 19,782,273 board feet reported in 2016 and just over half of the 22,606,525 board feet reported in 2015. The impact of the ash has likely had more influence due to the increased amount of ash on the market due to mortality or pending mortality caused by emerald ash borers.

Lower quality sales declined to 735,707 board feet from the 1,682,002 board feet reported last year and 1,533,077 board feet reported in 2016 and down significantly from 2,486,082 board feet and 2,657,366 board feet in 2015 and 2014 respectively. The volume of lower quality sales has generally been around 3 million board feet. The majority of the nearly 642,774 board feet sold in negotiated sales would be low quality / value sales which is why most were negotiated. Part of the decline may be the result of more ash being on the market which would shift the sales into the medium category.

VALUE of TIMBER SOLD: Total timber value sold in the 2018 reporting period declined slightly to $11,878,170 from $12,272,227 reported in 2017 and significantly from the $14,939,352 reported in 2016 and the record high of $19,207,898 reported in 2015. Although lower than 2015and 2016 value is still nearly as high as any other value reported since the survey began in 2001. The high quality sales brought $5,758,719, the medium quality $5,917,214, and the low quality $202,237.

HIGH QUALITY SALES GET MORE INTEREST: In 2018, a total of 1,286 bids were received on the 212 sales for an average of 6.07 bids per sale up considerably from 4.83 bids per sale last year, 5.14 bids in 2016 and 4.62 bids per sale received in 2015 and 2014. The high quality sales received 7.85 bids up considerably from 6.3 and 6.4 the last two years, which was up from 5.82 and 5.85 bids in 2015 and 2014, respectively. The 5.23 bids for medium quality sales is also up considerably from 4.3 bids last year which has been very consistent the last several years. The number of bidders on the low quality sales also increased to 3.6 bids up from 2.8 bids per sale which has also been fairly consistent since 2014.

The high number of bids reflects the strong market for the all timber. It is also likely a reflection of the lower number of sales and volume of timber sold. In theory more competition also results in a higher stumpage price which is reflected in the data.

STUMPAGE PRICES (See figure1): The average stumpage price was the highest since the report began in 2001 for all the sales and for the high and medium categories of sales (Figure 1). The average stumpage price for all was $605/MBF for this reporting period, up considerably from $497/MBF in the 2017 report and $514/MBF in 2016. The highest previous price of $522/MBF was reported in 2015. The high quality sales increased to $844 (average and median value, Figures 1 & 2) from an average stumpage value of $682/MBF (median value of $713/MBF) reported in 2017 which was down from the 2016 record high value of $814/MBF (median value of $744/MBF). This year there were 17 sales (19 in 2017) that brought over $1.50 per board foot and 29 sales (29 in 2017) that brought over $1/board foot. Most of these sales reported a very high component (25% or more) of black walnut.

The average stumpage price for the medium quality sales is $490/MBF (median value $459) up from $422/MBF (median value of $424) in 2017 which was the same as in 2016 (median value $415/MBF). Previously the highest average stumpage price for the medium quality stumpage was $433 reported in 2004.

The average stumpage value for the low quality category increased slightly to $275/MBF (median value $284/MBF) from $272/MBF (median value of $286/MBF) reported last year which was significantly higher than the value of $192/MBF (median value $190/MBF) reported in 2016. This value, however, is similar to the record value of $290/MBF reported in 2015. The range for the stumpage prices has generally been between $200-$230/MBF since 2001. The low number of low quality sales reported in 2016 along with a few larger, very low quality sales likely had a significant impact on the low value reported that year.

The weighted average stumpage price by sale type (obtained from this survey in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008-18) is reported in Figure 1. The weighted average of the stumpage price is the total dollar value for each sales category. The median stumpage price per year for each sales category is reported in Figure 2. The median price is the amount where half of the sales are higher and half are lower. The price reported is per 1000 board feet ($/MBF) for standing timber.

This year there were 29 sales that accounted for 13.7% of all the sales compared to 29 sales accounting for only 9.4% of the sale last year that brought over $1.00 per board foot and 31 sales (9.2%) and 36 sales (9.8%) in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The percentage of higher value sales (13.7%) is up from the 9 to 10% conducted the last 3 years. The increase is due to the high prices associated with black walnut and foresters and landowners trying to take advantage of the high price of black walnut. The percentage of the high value sales since 2015 is likely higher than before 2014. This increase is largely attributed to the high prices associated with black walnut and to a lesser extent white oak. These very high value sales are generally outliers that may distort the average stumpage value for most woods, which is why the median value is likely the best indicator of value.

Landowners should keep in mind that markets are only one factor to consider when selling timber. The condition of the tree is the most important factor that determines when it is the right time to sell a specific tree (is the tree increasing in value or declining – is the trees condition (health and vigor) going to decline, stay the same, or improve). Trees should be sold based on their problems or lack of potential rather than their current value. Ideally, you should sell your good trees when they have reached their peak or highest potential. Another factor to consider is what impact that tree will have on the health, vigor, and resiliency of the future stand (e.g., is it competing with a better tree or will it benefit or negatively impact natural regeneration). The lower quality sales are generally improvement harvests (commercial weedings) and the opportunity cost in lost productivity of the forest by not conducting these sales can be significant. If done properly the value per board foot should increase in subsequent sales along with the financial productivity and quality of the trees in the woods.

The stumpage prices for all sales held between April 16, 2017 and April 15, 2018 generally have a typical bell curve (Figure 3). Most sales fall within the middle range of values for each sale type. The jagged line at the higher end of the high quality sales is evidence of the variations in value some trees, especially high value walnut can have on the price.

All sales; low, medium, and high quality can be affected by sales with potential veneer or by the presence of a few high value trees, particularly black walnut and white oak. It is important for landowners reading this report to realize their timber typically will fall within the range of stumpage prices but probably will not fall into the outlying values. This makes it important to work with a professional who works for you when selling timber so that you know exactly what you have—an educated seller and an educated professional buyer generally results in a very successful sale.

COMMENTS: Tariffs are part of most discussions at this time. However, there is little concrete information regarding what impact the pending tariffs or threats of tariffs will have on our markets. Indiana exports a considerable amount of high value timber and China is one of our largest importers. We expect to see an impact, but the extent of the impact and the length of time the markets will be impacted are unknown at this time. Exported timber which is generally higher quality will be impacted more than the lower quality timber that stays in the domestic market. Because of the uncertainty and the volatility of the market related to the tariffs it is even more important to work with a professional forester that is looking out for your long term financial interests.

Standing timber prices often vary during the year and can change rapidly based on supply and demand. The prices are influenced by many factors including the tree species, the tree quality and size, where you are in the state, the distance to various types of sawmills, the access to infrastructure, the accessibility of the trees (steep slopes, water crossings, drainage, etc.), the size of the harvest, the terms of the sale, and more. At this time the threats of tariffs have the potential to dramatically impact the markets and the prices received for your timber. This report and the comments below are merely a snapshot in time with most made before the impacts of the tariffs are known. It is therefore important to work with a forester to get an up to the minute view of the existing markets.

Several consultants indicated, as the data shows, the markets this year have been some of the best they have seen with most but not all species doing well. The impact of the tariffs may be only a short-term blip, they may impact the market for the next 6 to 12 months, or we may see a significant long-term drop – no one knows and no one likes uncertainty.

•   Black walnut continues to be very hot (numerous comments). Recent comment indicated they heard from a buyer that their orders recently dropped, especially for lower quality walnut.

•   Red oak prices showed a big improvement at the end of 2017 and early 2018, especially for larger, higher quality trees, however, prices have recently dropped considerably. Part of the increase earlier this year may have been due to a buy up in anticipation of the tariffs (nearly 75 % of exported red oak goes to China).

•   Cherry market continued to come out the slump that occurred during the 2008 recession; however, they have recently contracted likely due to the tariffs.

•   Ash prices have been very good; however, many of the better logs have been exported so the prices have recently dropped. If you are in an area that is being impacted by emerald ash borers you probably don’t have the luxury of holding your ash.

•   Hickory supplies are high which has resulted in less demand and somewhat lower prices.

It is anticipated that the following species will not be affected as much by any tariffs.

•   White oak remains strong with high demand most grades due to diverse markets including barrel staves and ties. Because of the diverse markets white oak will likely be affected less by tariffs.

•   Poplar demand remains good and steady, especially for larger trees.

•   Sugar maple demand is good, especially for white wood. Sugar (Hard) maple has strong domestic markets.

•   Low grade (pallet) demand has been very good and is anticipated to stay strong as long as the economy stays strong.

The following are general comments.

•   Landowners need to have invasive species controlled prior to any harvesting. They are a slow moving wildfire that inflates (expands) rapidly after a disturbance such as a harvest.

•   Quality timber continues to sell well and draws more interest and a much higher price from buyers which further demonstrates that management pays large dividends.

•   A few good trees can attract buyers to sales that are generally low quality making them possible to sell.

•   Sales with low volumes are hard to sell unless some high quality timber is present or access is desirable.

Consulting Foresters that have contributed to this report in alphabetically order include: Arbor Terra Consulting (Mike Warner), Crowe Forest Management LLC (Tom Crowe and Jacob Hougham), Christopher Egolf, Jake Florine, Gandy Timber Management (Brian Gandy), Gregg Forestry Services (Mike Gregg), Habitat Solutions LLC (Dan McGuckin), Multi-Resource Management, Inc. (Thom Kinney and Doug Brown), Meisberger Woodland Management (Dan and Matt Meisberger), Quality Forest Management, Inc (Justin Herbaugh), Abe Bear, Stambaugh Forestry (John Stambaugh), Turner Forestry, Inc. (Stewart Turner), and Wakeland Forestry Consultants, Inc. (Bruce Wakeland) and Rooted in Forestry (Mike Denman and Andrew Suseland).