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Chair Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing on Innovative Wood Products

WASHINGTON- House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Chair Abigail Spanberger of Virginia delivered the following statement at today’s hearing on innovative wood products.

[As Prepared for Delivery]

“Good Morning, welcome and thank you all for joining us here today to discuss a very important topic – innovation in the wood products industry, and what it means for rural prosperity and forest health. 

“America’s forests are a pillar of our country’s prosperity, delivering very important environmental, social, and economic benefits.  Forests deliver ecosystem services that are irreplaceable—clean air and water, carbon storage, and biodiversity. They are favored places for families and recreation enthusiasts, and in rural areas, forests create jobs that underpin local economies.

“My home state of Virginia understands this well. Across Virginia’s 15 million acres of forested land, forest-related businesses contribute $17 billion annually to the state’s economy and support more than 100,000 jobs. At the national level, forestry-related businesses employ nearly 3 million men and women. As it relates to wood products, the industry accounts for approximately 4% of total manufacturing GDP, producing nearly $300 billion in products annually.  

“Yet multiple factors complicate the health of the industry. As markets have changed and evolved, demand for traditional wood products have matured or declined.

·       Plastic, steel, and other materials have replaced products previously made exclusively from wood;

·       the rise of digital media has significantly depressed newsprint and sheet paper production; and  

·       new residential housing, which drives strong wood markets, is now only beginning to approach pre-crisis figures. 

“With markets facing economic stagnation, the forest sector is looking to innovation to reinvigorate the industry – and the future is full of possibilities. 

“Innovative wood products have the potential to develop new markets and strengthen local economies. New markets can also provide incentives for land managers, public and private, to implement sustainable management practices that fully maximize forestry’s social and environmental benefits.  

“Recent innovations in mass timber and fiber insulation for the construction of wood buildings are already underway. These inventive products offer faster construction schedules and lower emission profiles.  

“Researchers are also discovering new ways to use wood materials, completely changing the course of material science and engineering.  An area of active research is in nanotechnology.  Potential applications for the use of nano-cellulose include additives to create food coatings, transparent-flexible electronics, biomedical applications, among many other novel uses. 

“These products and more like them are benefiting from federal research conducted by the Forest Products Laboratory. Innovative products that aren’t even our radar yet will come from investment in product development through opportunities like the Wood Innovation Grant Program.

“These investments are vital if our nation’s forests are to remain bountiful and productive for their full range of environmental, social, and economic benefits. I am grateful to hear and learn from our witnesses today on the progress of the wood products industry, federal support for these products, and to discuss the many benefits that innovation lends to forestry.”

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