All-Access Pass to Southern Pine: SFPA Notches Successes in 2021

An interesting thing happened in the lumber industry in 2021: The wood world stepped up and led the way back toward a more normal work world. It doesn’t matter if it was virtual, or if hybrid work became the everyday way of doing things. After staying home, not traveling, and becoming all-too-familiar with video calling apps in 2020, this past year saw people return to work with a vengeance, determined to grab that sense of familiarity they missed.

Nowhere was this more true and more evident than in the southern pine industry. Following a strong year faced with multiple, many-layered challenges, the staff and members of the Southern Forest Products Association dug in its heels, pivoted when necessary, kept their focus, and took significant steps toward a more normal year, both for themselves, and for their members.

Who We Are

SFPA is America’s first and oldest southern pine trade association—we came to be in 1915 as the Southern Pine Association. Since then, SFPA remains dedicated to advancing the southern pine lumber industry, promoting the use of member products in domestic and international markets, and facilitating the exchange of information and ideas. SFPA boasts an impressive membership roster that represents 45% of industry capacity for southern pine, and more than 100 member companies that provide products and services to the industry.

“We are the backbone of the southern pine lumber industry,” said Eric Gee, executive director of SFPA. “Our sole job is to build and create programs that serve our members, and that’s what we do. Even during the challenges of the past year and a half, we haven’t stopped growing, pushing, and educating.”

Let’s take a deeper look at the extensive list of SFPA accomplishments and areas of growth from 2021.

SFPA Retailer Resources

SFPA.org serves as a pivotal point of information gathering for both SFPA members and retailers through the providing of multiple resources designed to make the purchase of southern pine even easier.

Product Locator: Looking for a specific southern pine product? Hop on over to the Product Locator and peruse a selection of over 400 products. One click connects dealers and manufacturers to the appropriate sales contact. Concerned about grades, specific packing preferences, particular sizes, and lengths? No worries—all parameters are covered within the Product Locator.

Span Cards: Need a handy way to carry and reference southern pine span data? Visit SouthernPine.com and order one! Each card contains 12 span tables for common visual and mechanical grades under different loading conditions. A separate card offers three tables for pressure-treated southern pine lumber used in floor joists for outdoor projects. Everything you need, right at your fingertips!

Environmental Advantages

It’s important we continue to share correct information and education as to the environmental strengths and true impact of choosing wood as your favorite building material.

Here’s the main fact to pass along to your customers concerned about choosing wood: We are not running out of trees. The U.S. forest industry as a whole plants between three to five trees for every one harvested. Combined with strong methods of forest management, much of our country is enjoying healthier, stronger, larger forests than we’ve seen in decades.

Back in November 2021, a segment on National Public Radio discussed the impact to the environment of consumerism. Part of the discussion centered on the environmental impact resulting from consumption. What few people realize is that choosing lumber building materials directly affects the environment… in a GOOD way. Choosing wood equates to a lower carbon footprint and environmental impact than many building product competitors. Why? Because wood is the most renewable building product on the country. We are nowhere close to running out in this country. With the aggressive replanting rate referenced above, the forest industry ensures healthy, thriving forests for decades and centuries to come. Healthy forests build healthy breathing environments. And who doesn’t want more of that?

Great Under Pressure

The 2021 uptick in nationwide lumber production transferred to the pressure-treated southern pine industry, as our members enjoyed a higher overall demand for most of the year. Why? Because southern pine is easily treated and the perfect solution for outdoor projects. When it’s time to use the product to build or install a project, no special knowledge is needed, and no special tools are required – pressure-treated southern pine defines “ease of use.”

“What we saw in 2021 was homeowners getting out of their houses and into their workshops,” said Gee. “DIY home improvement projects of all parameters and sizes skyrocketed across the country. Garage and home projects took off as people worked with their hands, ventured outside of their comfort zones, and took on the challenge of building and creating things on their own.”

Gee went on to comment on the return of the popularity of woodworking and DIY project building, emphasized by the lack of availability of necessary tools both in independent retailers and in the big box stores.

“In the southern pine industry, we’re seeing an increased desire to get back to the old ways, to the comfortable things of their childhood,” concluded Gee. “People are transforming their backyards into the family oasis: whether it’s a deck, a pergola, a custom pool deck, or something else, 2021 saw a larger number of people get outside and create their dream backyard.”

Southern Pine by the Numbers

In 2020, southern pine manufacturers cranked out an all-time high amount of 20.8 billion bd. ft.

Looking at 2021: shipments year-to-date through August are trending up from 2020 levels. Within these numbers, No. 2 and No. 2 Prime are most widely produced, feeding the demand for pressure-treated lumber projects.

SFPA Family of Websites: In addition to SFPA.org, we offer a series of websites designed to provide information and education to each of our key audiences. Next time you’re online, check out these sites:

  • SouthernPine.com: span tables, design values, product locator, treated lumber, specialty products and more;
  • SouthernPineDecks.com: everything you need to know about building a deck or porch;
  • RaisedFloorLiving.com: Want to learn more about raised wood foundations? This is the spot!
  • SFPAexpo.com: The Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Expo is the premier venue for equipment manufacturers to display their products and services to the wood processing industry. It is held every other year.
  • SouthernPineGlobal.com: Here you’ll find the product locator, exporter directory, importer purchase inquiry, and publications.

Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Expo

A highlight of SFPA’s 2021 activities: the return of Expo! In spite of a few lingering restrictions from the pandemic, the 2021 gathering was a shining star for SFPA. Nearly 1,600 attendees met in the Georgia World Congress Center and enjoyed mingling, networking, and exploring the 126 exhibitor booths.

“The purpose of Expo is to bring the industry together,” commented Gee. “The show presents the perfect opportunity for all sides of the buying equation—manufacturers, marketing, sales—to join together, in person, in one location, to celebrate the industry and learn from each other.”

Gee reported that the vibe at 2021 Expo was upbeat and forward-thinking, with attendees happy to see each other face-to-face and reconnect in person after 18 months of looking at each other through laptop cameras.

Who attends Expo? Member companies dedicated to investing in technology in order to operate their businesses more efficiently and successfully plan for the future. Whether it’s investing in operations, supply chain management, material handling, or grade recovery, there’s something for everyone at Expo.

The 2021 show represented the 36th coming together of the industry under the Expo banner; the show has been held every other year since 1950, mostly in Atlanta.

With regards to the future location(s) of the show, Gee reports that the association is listening to feedback and requests from both attendees and exhibitors, and multiple sites are under consideration for 2023. More information will be forthcoming from SFPA in early 2022.

International Efforts to Drive SP Traffic

A prominent part of SPFA’s activities in the promotion of southern pine includes maintaining a robust schedule of international seminars and trade missions aimed at developing the market for southern pine lumber in key areas around the world. These international outreach events are integral as to how SFPA serves both its members and the industry as a whole.

With seminars tailored for a wide range of industry professionals—from dealers and contractors to architects—each opportunity to learn more about southern pine addresses relevant topics designed to specifically address the exact needs of each country.

SFPA didn’t skip a beat in 2021 when it comes to export promotion programs, despite travel disruptions. A successful pivot toward virtual events ensured that the association was able to reach a record number of timber traders and construction professionals worldwide and to safely meet their needs effectively.

Let’s break down the activities and successes and take a closer look at each.

FEA Strategic Planning Webinar

As a gold sponsor of this online or virtual event, SFPA was able to provide member access to information, which helped each better define their international goals moving forward.

Worldwide Conference on Timber Engineering

SFPA’s participation bolstered the Association’s seminar programs across the globe to enrich international outreach and education. With international advertising and messaging support in multiple global markets, southern pine information was showcased internationally through a variety of channels.

Japan Technical Committee (JTC)

In partnership with American Softwoods, SFPA and the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau  banded together to jointly present information on the southern pine resource and clarify the grading procedures for dense vs. non-dense grades.

Outreach: Caribbean

Throughout the southern pine-loving Caribbean, virtual seminars targeted hundreds of key buyers in both traditional markets and new markets—some of which SFPA reached for the first time.

Outreach: Central America

Multiple southern pine lumber events were held in Guatemala, with brand-new outreach activities expanding into the Panamanian building market.

Outreach: South America

Targeting potential southern pine lumber buyers across the continent, a first-ever virtual education seminar was held and pulled in excellent results.

Outreach: Latin America

Enhanced with upgraded discussions focusing on using southern pine lumber to build for high winds and in seismic zones, SFPA targeted audiences throughout Latin America with these solutions to these key discussion points.

Outreach: International Trade Shows

While many lumber industry trade shows across Europe, India, the Middle East, and Asia were cancelled or postponed in 2021, plans are well underway for a full slate of in-person trade shows in 2022. Members are keen to take advantage of these face-to-face opportunities, and SFPA stands ready to serve member needs.

Southern Pine Exports

Export numbers calculated throughout the majority of 2021 are roaring back to pre-pandemic levels, an encouraging sign as plans are underway for 2022.

Southern pine lumber shipments surged 57% through September of 2021 to a whopping $222 million, and exports of pressure-treated lumber—almost all of which is southern pine—jumped an incredible 31% to $93 million.

New Outreach for 2021

Brand new for the southern pine international outreach in 2021: SFPA launched informational newsletters in the Caribbean and Latin American markets aimed at maximizing engagement with a growing in-house database of traders and specifiers.

– For more information on all the activities managed by the Southern Forest Products Association, to access our numerous pieces of free educational information, or to become an SFPA member, please visit www.sfpa.org.

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