In Maine, timber harvest expected to be down over 20 percent in 2020 due in large part to COVID-19, Androscoggin Mill explosion
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), Congressman David Rouzer (NC-07), and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to provide relief to family logging and log hauling businesses that have been seriously impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis. Senator Angus King (I-ME) is a co-sponsor of the bill.
The lawmakers’ bipartisan bill would establish a new program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide direct payments to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that can demonstrate they have experienced significant economic hardship compared to the previous year. The logging industry has experienced a steep decline in demand for wood fiber since the coronavirus pandemic began, leading to an estimated 20 percent or more drop in the timber harvest this year.
“Throughout Maine’s history, our forest products industry has created good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and sustained rural communities,” said Senator Collins. “This industry was already facing significant headwinds due to a changing 21st century economy and unfair trade practices, as well as the explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay and the shutdown of the paper machine at Sappi in Westbrook. COVID-19 has only compounded these challenges. Maine’s family logging and log hauling businesses need our support. Our bipartisan bill would provide critical financial assistance to the skilled professionals who work in this industry to help them get through this difficult period.”
“Logging has provided good jobs and supported rural communities in Maine for generations,” said Congressman Golden. “But today, our loggers and truckers face two major challenges they have no control over: sinking demand from the coronavirus recession and a disruption in the market following the accident at the mill in Jay. Congress has recognized the unique role farmers and fishermen play in their rural communities, and taken action to provide relief funds to those industries. Loggers are taking a serious hit and deserve the same support. I’m proud to work across the aisle with Congressman Rouzer, Senator Collins, and Senator Smith to help our loggers and log haulers make it through these difficult times.”
“We need to support Minnesota’s diverse timber industry during the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sen. Smith. “This bipartisan legislation will provide critical relief to loggers and timber trucking businesses whose revenues have suffered during this unprecedented time. For the sake of Minnesota forest products, and the jobs they support, we need to move this bill forward."
The program envisioned in Collins and Golden’s bill is modeled after the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which has been providing direct relief to growers and producers experiencing dramatic drops in prices and overall business activity due to the pandemic. Specifically, the legislation would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to provide payments to eligible logging businesses that have experienced at least a 10 percent loss in revenues from January through July 2020 as compared to the same timeframe last year. Those who qualify would receive direct payments equal to 10 percent of their gross revenue from January through July of last year, and would only be permitted to use the funds for operating expenses, including payroll.
Under the CARES Act, Congress has already provided $300 million to the nation’s fishing industry and $16 billion for dairy and livestock producers as well as fruit and vegetable growers.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our small, family owned and operated logging business has been hurt significantly by strict quotas in some markets and completely shut off in others. This, all occurring on the heels of our seasonal shut down time, multiplies the financial burdens on our business and family. We also don’t see the future getting any better and are struggling for survival. The financial assistance being proposed in this legislation would significantly help us pay our fixed costs so we can survive limited production and continue to harvest necessary, renewable resources for our nation.” - Randy Kimball, President, Kimball & Sons Logging and Trucking, LLC of Poland
“We all feel the effect COVID-19 is having on the world today. Logging and Trucking companies in Maine have come across these difficulties as well, with the loss of wood markets and many other mills on quotas or not taking wood at all. We have certainly been challenged in these unprecedented times. Our companies certainly could use some help to survive these trying times without losing any more valuable loggers and truckers forever. Thank you Senator Collins and Congressman Golden for all of your efforts on our behalf.” - Jim Nicols, President of Nicols Brothers Logging Inc. of Mexico
“In April of this year we shut down our logging operations because of lack of markets and price reductions state-wide related to the 2020 COVID Crisis. For the first time in my 40-year career, my sons and I have decided not to return to the forest for the summer season! We will wait until fall and then choose a path forward. We were hopeful something good can transpire between now and then and this legislation from Congressman Golden and Senator Collins could be it. What a shame it would be to lose the talent of my son's and our valuable crew from the Maine Woods! Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” - Duane Jordan, President, Elliot Jordan & Son, Inc. of Waltham
“The economic uncertainty and loss of markets created by the COVID-19 pandemic have hit the Maine logging and forest trucking industry at a time when it was already suffering from the effects of a mild winter, early spring, and low profit margins. Without federal relief, many in this industry will not survive. They need help now, and we are thankful for Senator Collins' and Rep. Golden’s recognition of these challenges and for working towards a solution that can keep our hard-working logging and trucking families employed while preserving the future of the industry and the rural communities that depend on it." - Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine
Maine’s logging industry is a linchpin of the state’s economy, generating an estimated $619 million in economic output, and providing $342 million in income to around 9,000 Mainers, most of whom live in rural communities. The industry suffered a serious setback in April when a digester at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay exploded, shutting the facility down temporarily and reducing its capacity upon reopening. The facility is one of the largest timber purchasers in the state, receiving approximately 150-175 truckloads of wood each day under normal conditions.