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Arkansas: The Heart of the Nation's Wood Basket

 May 13, 2021

Agriculture is Arkansas’ number one industry. As Governor Hutchinson has said, “It’s easy to forget that the timber industry is part of that. But timber production is a crop just like rice or soybeans or cotton.” Here are a few facts about the timber and forest products industry in Arkansas:

  • Arkansas ranks #1 in the south for economic impact of the timber and forest products industry, meaning the derived activity (jobs, income, wealth) from the industry outranks the impact in other states across the south.
  • Arkansas ranks #1 in the south for the number of hardwood seedlings grown and #4 for the total number of seedlings grown, meaning the available wood volume in Arkansas is as abundant as anywhere in the country. Arkansas is growing 37 million tons/year and harvesting 23 million tons/year, meaning we are adding to the surplus. This is seen as positive for manufacturers, as it offers low prices for supply.
  • For every direct employee in the industry, there is a 2.5 multiplier, meaning the indirect and induced employment of the industry has widespread benefit on the state and local economies. Of the nearly 28,000 people directly employed in the industry, the average salary is around $52,000.

As we evaluate these facts, we must remember that timber is a renewable resource, and through the efforts of landowners, the forests of Arkansas are in better shape than ever. For every tree harvested, 1.7 trees are planted back in the ground. As our forests continue to grow, so does the importance of good management. Controlled, prescribed fires encourage the growth of native vegetation and prevent against the threat of wildfire. Forest product companies should have confidence knowing the supply of timber is not only abundant, but professionally managed. The Forestry Division of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture provides technical assistance ensuring our state’s fiber supply remains marketable. Services include:

  • Written forest management plans providing best-practices based on soils, condition of the forest, and landowner objectives. 
  • Information on tree planting, site preparation, and timber stand improvement. 
  • Identification and control of forest insects and diseases. 
  • Site recommendations for protection, restoration, and improvement of Arkansas’ water and wetland resources. 

With roughly 28,000 people employed in the industry, institutions across the state are providing forest product companies with qualified, well-trained employees. Each day across Arkansas, nearly ten different institutions provide up-to-date training, equipping the next generation of forest production workers. The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) is the state’s leader in timber education, offering a variety of degree programs and utilizing 1400 acres of timberland for research to ensure tomorrow’s workforce matches its forests: strong, resilient, and innovative. UAM also serves as headquarters for the Arkansas Forest Resources Center, a University of Arkansas Center of Excellence, with the mission of developing and delivering superior programs in research and extension that enhance and ensure the sustainability of forest-based natural resources. 

As we continue to grow our forests, the team at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission will continue to pursue new markets. The message to timber and forest product companies is clear: in Arkansas, the forests are healthy, the workforce is trained, and the timber surplus is ready for production.

To keep up with the latest news in the Arkansas timber industry, please subscribe to the Timber Trends newsletter available through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information about doing business in Arkansas, let’s connect.

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Blog post contributed by:

Jack Thomas
Project Manager
Arkansas Economic Development Commission
Email | LinkedIn


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