Loggers Seek Parity with Agriculture on Trade, Tariff Policies

©Debra L Ferguson Photography

The American Loggers Council (ALC) and its member state logging associations delivered letters to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking the administration to include unrefined forest products as an agricultural commodity. ALC and its members say aligning timber and agriculture would enable impacted loggers to receive relief as the industry continues to be impacted by retaliatory tariffs.

“The West Virginia forest products industry has been, and continues to be, concerned that federal support for our products is not being treated equally with agricultural products,” wrote Curt Hassler and William Robinson, representing the West Virginia Loggers Council.

“While the agricultural sectors have been the primary beneficiaries of tariff relief, we believe it is time for forest products to be included in tariff relief policies. We stand ready to support policy initiatives that ensure all sectors of the forest products industry, including timberland owners, loggers, and mills, are no longer overlooked as a needed, valued, and sustainable industry in our national economy.”

The logging associations noted that unrefined forest products, such as wood fiber and logs, are among the most widely exported commodities to foreign countries. Retaliatory tariffs have had severe impacts on certain sectors of the forest products industry, resulting in the closure of businesses and the loss of jobs.

“Even though the ‘2018 US Agriculture Exports to China” chart ranks forest products as the number two largest industry, the USDA does not list hardwoods on their website as an exported commodity,” wrote Tommy Carroll, Executive Director of the Southeastern Wood Products Association.

“As hardwood and other mills adapt to tariffs in their own operations, logging companies are feeling the impact in their operations as well. In addition, many forest landowners who have significant investment in their timberlands are experiencing a lack of demand and lower prices for standing timber.”

The associations also noted that like agricultural commodities, unrefined forest products are also perishable commodities that are sensitive to trade and tariff policies.

“Trade or exporting wood products is vital to Oregon’s forest sector economy,” wrote Rex Storm, Interim Executive Vice President of Associated Oregon Loggers. “During recent trade debates we’ve come to realize the lack of federal government support for forest commodity consideration. Timber products are a perishable commodity susceptible to decay, insects, disease and fire- a perishable commodity that is 40 or more years to grow as a crop. Forest products are not treated equitably with agriculture.”

The associations thank Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration for its efforts to support the forest products industry on various issues. Aligning timber and agriculture on trade policies would enable logging businesses to weather the impacts of retaliatory tariffs as the administration seeks to resolve trade disputes.

“The timber industry helped build the United States economy as well as agriculture,” wrote David Livingston, Executive Director of the Mississippi Loggers Association. “We need to make them one in the same, for the only difference between agriculture and tree farming is the length of the crop rotation.”




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