Many exhibitors reported strong sales at the recent APF 2012. The event, organised by Confor’s subsidiary company, can be seen as a barometer of the UK forest-based industry, and the readings are healthy.

Strong sales are welcome news, and also helpfully support Confor’s current lobbying of government. In February, we submitted an influential report explaining how 7,000 jobs could be created in England through forestry and timber processing. These jobs would be primarily in rural areas that previous employment initiatives have struggled to reach. The report identified how supporting Wood for Good’s Wood First initiative could help drive demand and that investment in infrastructure in woodland could support more beneficial management and more wood being harvested.

At a time when David Cameron has reiterated that growing the economy is the overwhelming priority of government, and that all departments are to be economic departments, the time is right for a rethink on governments’ approach to forestry.

Public policy has been the wrong way round for years, putting the provision of public benefits before financial sustainability. Woodland brought into financially sustainable management will yield more benefits for many more years.

The recent report of the Independent Panel on Forestry provides an excellent opportunity to hammer such messages home but, as those who do it can appreciate, lobbying is neither quick nor simple.

As well as meeting civil servants, Confor is facilitating industry input to a Wood Industry Action Plan. The Bishop of Liverpool will speak to Confor’s all-party group at Westminster, and we expect the new Defra secretary of state to speak at our conference on the Panel report. The conference, a real opportunity to influence government thinking, is on October 25, near Westminster, and some places are still available (see

We are probably the only sector that simultaneously offers economic growth and environmental benefit. It is vital we seize the opportunity to explain that simple fact to government and to make a real change for the better.

? TTJ Industry Updates are a forum for trade bodies to address key issues.