Washington, D.C. — In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S. Senator Susan Collins led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the USDA to provide financial assistance to American loggers and log haulers who have been experiencing serious financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was also signed by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
“Loggers and log haulers are critical to America’s forest products industry – which is a top-10 manufacturing industry in 45 U.S. states. Our nation’s loggers and haulers harvest and transport the raw material that supports over $283 billion in value-added wood and paper products – with a supply chain that includes nearly one million Americans earning over $54 billion in combined payroll,” the Senators wrote. “In light of the dire situation facing loggers and log haulers, we urge the Department to use its broad authority and funds already provided by Congress to immediately make financial assistance available to loggers and log haulers impacted by the pandemic.”
“Maine loggers are not seeking a handout, they are seeking a lifeline, and without it many will not be in business much longer,” said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. “Farmers and fishermen have been given that lifeline already, and all we are asking for is the same help for the hard-working loggers and log hauling businesses of Maine. We are very thankful to Senator Collins and the Maine delegation for their recognition of loggers as equals to farmers and fisherman and we hope that USDA will do the same. Loggers are farmers of the forest and should be treated that way."
Unfortunately, the federal programs that have been administered to help businesses cope with the pandemic’s impact, such as the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), do not include loggers and log haulers. To ensure that timber harvesting and hauling businesses are afforded financial assistance similar to other agriculture sectors, Senator Collins, along with Representative Jared Golden (D-ME), led a bicameral, bipartisan group in introducing the Loggers Relief Act earlier this year. This legislation would authorize USDA to provide direct support to loggers and log haulers who experienced at least a 10 percent loss in the first seven months of 2020 (as compared to 2019).
The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine project that mill closures and curtailments in Maine caused by the pandemic’s ripple effects will lead to a 30 percent reduction in harvesting capacity and the layoff of nearly 1,000 people in harvesting and hauling. Over 11,000 truckloads of wood will not be delivered to a Maine mill in 2020. For an industry that is responsible for over $620 million of direct economic impact in Maine each year, these disruptions will result in a direct loss of over $186 million of economic activity.
Click HERE to read the full letter.