Iowa Wood Products Industry

Wood Industry

The latest survey of Iowa sawmills was conducted during 2005. At this time Iowa had 29 sawmills that produced 16 million cubic feet of industrial roundwood compared to 17.6 million cubic feet in 2000; a 9 percent decrease in production. Industrial roundwood products are saw logs, pulpwood, veneer logs, poles, commercial posts, pilings, cooperage logs, particleboard bolts, shaving bolts, lath bolts, charcoal bolts, and chips. All roundwood in Iowa is from hardwood species only, there are no markets close enough for the small amount of softwood volume that is growing in Iowa.

85 MBF of sawlogs were removed throughout Iowa, with over half of the volume coming from NE Iowa. Down slightly (4%) from 89 MBF in 2000. Soft maple led the species list followed by elm and hickory for volume with 16.6 MBF, up from 15 MBF in 2000 in the sawlog category. The species with the greatest decrease in demand between 2000-2005 were the red oak (down 26%) and white oak (down 17%) species groups.

Looking at Iowa as 4 quadrants shows how different the timber markets are within the state. The top 3 species harvested in the northeast region were red oak, white oak and black walnut. These 3 species represented 54% of the volume removed in 2005. In the NW region soft maple, cottonwood and ash were the top 3 species harvested. In the SE region soft maple, white oak and red oak were the order for the top 3 species harvested. Cottonwood, black walnut and red oak were the top 3 species for the SW region. By looking within each region, there are different available forest types and markets that influence sawmill production.

The most valuable species, black walnut, was harvested the most (2005) by volume in Clayton county followed by Allamakee and Jackson. Jefferson county had the most volume of soft maple harvested followed by Keokuk and Iowa.

Iowa forest landowners were paid $20 million for their trees in 2005. Consolidation of the sawmill industry as a result of technological efficiencies along with aging equipment and workforce has decreased the number of sawmills in Iowa. The number of portable sawmills is hard to track, but we do know there are at least 47.

The amount of veneer logs produced by sawmills in Iowa increased from 3.6 million board feet in 2000 to 5.1 million board feet in 2005, an increase of 40%. Black walnut accounted for 2,753 million board feet followed by white oak species with 1,692 million board feet of veneer produced.

In 2005 harvesting left 11.4 million cubic feet of residue on the ground after the logs were removed. About 33% of the material was oak species & 24% was from silver maple. At the sawmills 120 thousand tons of green waste were produced after cutting logs into various wood products. Miscellaneous uses like livestock bedding, mulch and small dimensional lumber used 83% of a sawmills waste. About 15% of the waste was burned for fuel.

Overall the wood industry is composed of 186 businesses in Iowa that created a economic value of $1.5 billion, up 36% from 1997 levels, according to the 2002 Economic Census of Iowa. The annual payroll for these businesses was $386 million for 10,964 employees. The payroll was up 32% and enrollment was up 72% between 1997 to 2002. So, even though the number of companies within the industry is shrinking the workforce is growing and receiving an increase in their salary.

Interested in a timber sale but need more information? Call Before You Cut is a great site that has Iowa specific information about timber sales, advice, and what to expect. Visit: or call 1-800-865-2477 today!

Further Resources