Golden, Pingree, Rouzer Push USDA for Aid to Loggers
WASHINGTON — To help protect Maine loggers and logging businesses, today Representative Jared Golden (ME-02), Representative Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Representative David Rouzer (NC-07) led a group of 15 bipartisan members of Congress to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to immediately amend the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and include loggers in coronavirus relief as “agricultural producers.”
In the past, loggers have been considered eligible for certain USDA grants under the same designation.
“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…” the lawmakers wrote. “There is precedent for USDA to include loggers and log haulers in the definition of ‘agricultural producer’ under CFAP… This precedent could be applied to CFAP, similar to what the Department has done for other fiber producers, to ensure these businesses that are the backbone of the forest products industry can emerge from this crisis. We also implore you to identify any and all USDA funding sources, programs, and authorities that could be used to help stabilize these sectors.”
Golden’s work to help loggers received praise from the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine:
“Maine loggers are not seeking a handout, they are seeking a lifeline, and without it many will not be in business much longer,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said. “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 Congressman Golden 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."
Golden, Pingree, and Rouzer also worked together to introduce a bipartisan, bicameral bill this summer, the Loggers Relief Act. Their bill, which has 20 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and seven bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, would provide loggers with individual relief to offset losses as a result of COVID-19. The Senate companion was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).
Last month, Golden passed an amendment through the House of Representatives to bolster the logging industry by clearing the market for more sales of biomass, including waste wood products from loggers, in Maine. Last year, Golden and Senator Angus King (I-ME) also introduced a bill to allow young Mainers to work for their family’s logging businesses.
You can read their letter here, or read it down below:
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We are writing to request the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) assistance in helping to prevent American loggers and log haulers from falling through the gaps of the federal government’s COVID-19 economic relief programs, which would threaten the livelihoods of countless hardworking forestry professionals. We believe that USDA is uniquely positioned to respond to the crisis facing so many loggers whose operations have been seriously harmed by the effects of the pandemic.
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 U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed the forest products industry as part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce during the COVID-19 response. Given how vital this workforce is our economy, it is alarming that loggers in some regions have reported 40-50 percent losses this year due to the pandemic.
The negative impacts of the pandemic on the forest products industry began in late March and have steadily worsened. Initially, COVID-19 crashed lumber markets as housing starts ground to a halt. In the months since, paper mills across the country have shut down or drastically cut output. A recent analysis generated for the American Loggers Council shows that this year’s decrease in raw wood material consumption has led to a $1.83 billion reduction (or 13 percent loss) in the value of logger/trucker-delivered wood. The report found that consumption of raw wood material between January and July 2020 was down 6.7 percent (or 21.4 million tons) compared to the same period in 2019.
In Maine, mill closures and curtailments 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 each year, these disruptions will result in a direct loss of over $186 million of economic activity. Similar impacts to loggers and haulers are being seen in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas.
Unfortunately, the federal programs that have been administered to help businesses cope with the pandemic’s impact do not work well for loggers and log haulers. Loggers and log haulers, for example, are not included in USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides price support for a limited list of commodities. Notably, producers of maple syrup, wool, cut flowers, aloe leaves, and upland cotton have all been granted CFAP eligibility.
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.
There is precedent for USDA to include loggers and log haulers in the definition of “agricultural producer” under CFAP. For example, USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants define “agricultural producer” as “an individual or entity that produces an Agricultural Commodity [including timber and forestry products] through participation in the day-to-day labor, management, and field operations; or has the legal right to harvest an Agricultural Commodity.” This precedent could be applied to CFAP, similar to what the Department has done for other fiber producers, to ensure these businesses that are the backbone of the forest products industry can emerge from this crisis. We also implore you to identify any and all USDA funding sources, programs, and authorities that could be used to help stabilize these sectors.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to provide targeted relief to loggers and log haulers impacted by COVID-19.