WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine’s logging industry, which the members of the Maine Delegation call a “linchpin of the state’s economy,” is now able to get much-needed relief from financial hardships brought on by coronavirus pandemic.
Although the $200 million in federal funding that was secured by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, in the COVID-19 relief package that was signed in December, it took months of work to push the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize the program and application process, Golden and Collins’ offices said.
"Those eligible include timber harvesting or timber hauling businesses where 50% or more of their gross revenue is derived from cutting timber, transporting timber, or processing wood on site," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said.
The “Loggers Relief Act,” which was authored by Collins and Golden and co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, establishes a new USDA program to provide direct payments to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that experienced at least a 10-percent loss in revenue in 2020 compared to 2019.
"The explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay, Sappi shut down one of the machines, we've had trade issues so it's been a challenging time, and that just compounded it," Pingree said.
The direct payments will be equal to 10% of their gross revenue from 2019, with the funds to be used for operating expenses, including payroll, Golden and Collins’ offices explained in a release.
"This is the first time in the history of forest management in the United States that the federal government has stepped in to help the timber industry," said Golden.
The American Loggers Council estimates that slashed output and stalled operations at paper mills throughout the pandemic caused a $1.83 million reduction, or 13%, in the value of logger-delivered wood.
"Many are struggling to hold on, many just shut their doors and have gone away, many are telling their family members not to continue in the business, and no fiber product whether it's pulp and paper or solid wood products in the state of Maine, can be produced without a logging contractor or trucker to bring that wood to market," said Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Contractors of Maine.
Tony Madden, the owner of A.W Madden, a logging and trucking company, said he will be applying for relief once applications open up.
"We are just limping along with the limited markets, like I said last year was off by 30 to 40%," said Madden.
"To put that on a financial scale that's anywhere from 180 to 100 million dollars," said Doran, referencing Madden's percentages.
In a press conference announcing the opening of the program Tuesday with Dana Doran, the executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, Golden said the program is historic.
“This is the first time in the history of forest management in the United States that the federal government has stepped in to help the timber industry and to recognize it as an agricultural commodity … so it's a big deal,” Golden said. “It's a historic kind of move by the federal government, but more importantly, it's going to bring some helpful, and … very necessary assistance to loggers across the country.”
Collins said even before COVID, loggers were facing significant challenges “due to a changing 21st century economy and unfair trade practices,” and the pandemic only compounded these challenges.
“The last 18 months have been arguably the most challenging period of time for Maine’s timber harvesters and haulers in our state’s history,” Doran said in a release Tuesday. “Even despite record lumber prices this past spring, Maine’s loggers and truckers were still left to fend for themselves while their colleagues in farming and fishing were provided a lifeline. The Loggers Relief Act is truly historic and will help one of Maine’s heritage industries when they need it the most.”
In Maine, the logging industry generates an estimated $619 million, providing $342 million in income to around 9,000 Mainers, according to Golden and Collins’ offices.
"Logging represents over 4,000 direct jobs and creates another 5,000 indirect jobs for the state of Maine, so that's a big deal," added Doran.
Applications will be accepted starting July 22. Click here for more information about how to apply.
More statements about the program:
“Throughout Maine’s history, our forest products industry has supported good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and strengthened rural communities. Loggers were 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 #9 paper machine and biomass boiler at Sappi in Westbrook. COVID-19 only compounded these challenges. That’s why I worked to secure $200 million in the COVID-19 emergency relief package to provide critical financial assistance to the skilled professionals who work in this industry to help them get through this difficult period. I am pleased that, following our advocacy, this much-needed support for Maine’s family logging and log hauling businesses is now on the way.”
“Timber harvesters have been hit with a number of challenges in the past few years but they continue to work hard to provide the wood fiber that is critical to Maine’s mills. Understanding the economic pressures that loggers face, Senator Collins and I worked together to create this emergency relief program targeted specifically to loggers and log haulers. Now that the USDA is ready to disperse these funds, our offices are available to help constituents navigate the application process.”
“The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout have touched every facet of the U.S. economy – and Maine’s forest industry is unfortunately not immune to this crisis. Generations of loggers have spent their lifetimes powering our state’s economy while providing for their families, which is why it is so important to protect and sustain this historic industry. I joined my colleagues near the beginning of the pandemic to introduce legislation to provide assistance to loggers and timber harvesters, and now I’m pleased to join my colleagues in delivering these critical funds directly to the hardworking folks that need them. The industry has supported rural Maine families and communities for hundreds of years, and it’s imperative that foresters have the resources to continue building this legacy into the future.”
“While Maine’s forest products sector remains strong, our loggers need this economic shot-in-the-arm to maintain their competitive edge in the face of mill closures and the fallout from COVID-19. I am proud to have advocated for this $200 million in emergency financial assistance, and encourage eligible logging and log hauling businesses to apply for these funds as soon as possible. Thanks to the Maine delegation’s efforts, help is now on the way!”
“This a historic first for timber harvesters and haulers here in Maine and across the United States, who will finally be able to access relief funds designated specifically for their industry. This has never happened in our nation’s history until now, and we want to thank U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Representative Jared Golden for leading the effort to secure this aid on behalf of hard-working small family businesses in the industry here in Maine, and Senator Angus King and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree for joining that effort. We would also like to offer a special thanks to Senator Collins for her persistence in urging that these funds be disbursed as quickly as possible.”
Read the bill here: