NC State Extension Publications


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Needles of the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) are prized as a mulch by homeowners and communities in North Carolina for their long length, color retention, and durability relative to the other southern pine species. Landowners managing longleaf pine plantations can look to pine straw harvesting as an intermediate income opportunity that is compatible with their long-term objectives when practiced responsibly. Also, entrepreneurs seeking to participate in pine straw activities can do so at perhaps a more favorable level of investment than that required by other alternatives in the forest economy, such as timber harvesting and sawmilling.

Processors make a variety of intermediate and value added payments for capital, labor, energy, materials, and services. To meet the industry’s needs, its suppliers also make purchases, so their outputs may ultimately be used as pine straw inputs. Further, employees in the pine straw industry and its supply chain purchase local goods and services in their communities. Each round of spending introduces additional economic linkages that become increasingly more complex. A full accounting of these transactions can provide insight into the industry’s economic contributions to the state.

Pine straw sales in North Carolina exceeded $25 million when last surveyed in 1996 (Hamilton and Megalos 1997). Little, though, is known regarding the state’s pine straw industry today. This note was a first attempt at providing that description. Published sources and communications with colleagues and clientele provided a foundation on which to classify industry spending and sales activities. These data were then entered into an IMPLAN model for North Carolina (IMPLAN LLC 2015) to estimate the economic contributions pine straw processing provides to the state.

Estimating Pine Straw Production Activities

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North Carolina pine straw industry contributions were based on the harvesting and processing of longleaf pine straw exclusively. Little to no loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is being raked in the state, except in possible cases where it occurs in conjunction with longleaf pine. North Carolina longleaf pine timberland acreage on sites capable of producing at least 50 ft3/Ac/yr was obtained from the North Carolina Forest Service and estimated to be 350,000 acres. Sites able to grow timber at rates of at least 50 ft3/Ac/yr were considered the minimum for straw production to be feasible.

Pine straw production and acreage statistics for Georgia were collected to develop an estimate of North Carolina woodlands in possible straw production (USFS FIA 2016; Wolfe and Stubbs 2015). By this method 49,753 acres, or 14.2% of the state total available, actively produced straw in 2014.

A nonscientific survey of pine straw producers and field staff with the North Carolina Forest Service suggested a prevailing price per bale of $3.50 was received by processors (square bales sized 2 ft3). Production was estimated at 200 bales per acre.

A pine straw enterprise budget adapted to North Carolina was obtained from Robertson (1992), which provided potential revenues along with an itemized lists of costs for a processor. Costs for straw stumpage were not present in Robertson’s (1992) budget but were included here. Prescribed burn costs were eliminated, as it was suggested no prescribed burning takes place on the state’s pine straw acreage.

A 2014 IMPLAN model for North Carolina was constructed (McConnell et al. 2016). Costs from the enterprise budget were bridged to IMPLAN’s input-output accounts on a per dollar of output basis. A single-industry contributions analysis was then conducted. Please contact the Department of Forest Biomaterials for greater details regarding the IMPLAN methodology.

Pine Straw Industry Contributions

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Industrial output, or gross sales, of North Carolina pine straw processors totaled $34.8 million. Table 1 summarizes the results for pine industry activities obtained from IMPLAN. An estimated 355 full- and part-time jobs were associated with pine straw production. Labor income- wages paid to workers and business owners- totaled $8.99 million, or $25,330 per job.

Value added summed to $17.5 million dollars. Value added describes the returns the pine straw industry provides to the economy. It includes labor income, but also payments to capital for land rent, equipment depreciation, and other operational surpluses, as well as indirect business taxes. It is the better measure of economic performance and describes pine straw’s contribution to gross state product (GSP).

Table 1. Estimated North Carolina pine straw industry activities.


Labor Income

Value Added






Meeting the demand for North Carolina's pine straw goes far beyond the direct activities of gathering and processing. Supplies purchased from wholesalers must be manufactured by producing industries. Businesses, such as insurance agents and repair shops, provide needed services, who in turn must purchase their own set of inputs. Revenues received by landowners from straw stumpage provide needed funds to conduct woodland management, which ultimately maintains forest health and productivity. The incomes paid by these businesses to collectively support pine straw activities is then spent by households throughout communities.

These spillover, or ripple, effects due to pine straw production totaled an additional 144 jobs, $7.5 million in labor income, $14.5 million of value added, and $25.3 million in output. Again, these totals were generated in other businesses to support pine straw industry activities (Table 2). In total, pine straw production in North Carolina provided $16.5 million of income for 499 jobs and contributed $32.0 million to GSP in 2014. Gross sales across the state economy summed to $60.1 million.

Table 2. Economic contributions of the North Carolina pine straw industry.


Labor Income

Value Added


Pine Straw Activities





Production in Other Industries Due to Pine Straw











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Pine straw’s value to North Carolina producers exceeded receipts for 13 agricultural crops in the state (USDA NASS 2016). The $34.8 million received by the state’s processors fell between the $11.0 million in sales for South Carolina (Hughes 2015) and the $79.5 million reported by Georgia (Wolfe and Stubbs 2015). North Carolina’s pine straw sector supported approximately 500 jobs. Gross sales across the state totaled $60.1 million. Value added contributions to GSP were $32.0 million. These figures highlight pine straw’s importance to not only forest-based income but also North Carolina’s forest economy.


Skip to References

Hamilton, R. and M. Megalos. 1997. Producing Longleaf Pine Straw. Woodland owner note WON-18. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. 3 p.

Hughes, D.W. 2015. Economic impact analysis of South Carolina’s forest sector, 2015. South Carolina Forestry Commission, Columbia, SC. 21 p.

IMPLAN LLC. 2015. 2014 IMPLAN North Carolina database. Huntersville, NC.

McConnell, T.E., J. Jeuck, R. Bardon, D. Hazel, C. Altizer, and B. New. 2016. Methodology for determining forest sector contributions to North Carolina’s economy. Forestry impact note, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Raleigh, NC.

Robertson, D.R. 1992. Pine straw production cost-benefit analysis with species comparisons. Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, Baton Rouge, LA. 13 p.

U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. 2016. North Carolina statistics.

USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis. 2016. EVALIDator database.

Wolfe, K and K. Stubbs. 2015. 2014 Georgia farm gate value report. AR-15-01. Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. 174 p.


Extension Specialist, Forest Biomaterials
Wood Products Extension

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Publication date: March 18, 2016

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