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COVID-19 relief may include federal aid that would benefit Maine loggers and timber harvesters

For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Maine loggers are hoping to receive federal assistance.

MAINE, Maine — "We've kind of been left holding the bag of again being told you are essential but you are not treated with the same parity as farmers and fishermen," says Dana Doran, Executive Director at the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.

After almost 11 months, financial aid may be on the way to Maine's professional timber industry.

Part of the new coronavirus stimulus package includes up to $200 million to help support the logging industry in the US, including Maine loggers and truckers.
Senators Collins and King along with Representatives Golden and Pingree worked on the deal to help ensure loggers were not left out.

Doran says this year has certainly been the most challenging one for the industry. On average, logging contractors losing 30%-50% of their market this year.

"It's hard to get that point across to the public, they've seen toilet paper, and paper products in grocery stores that are just flying off the shelves and they've heard that construction markets are booming so, therefore, everybody should be good...well it hasn't been the case," he says.

Doran tells NEWS CENTER Maine many are suffering severe revenue losses, layoffs, loss of clients, reduced productivity, and inability to plan for the future. Also, the loss of the Pixelle Specialty Solutions pulp mill in Jay to an explosion in April has drastically trickled business for the industry in Maine.

The logging industry is said to support more than 9,000 jobs here in Maine.

"We've seen five paper mills shutter along the banks of the Penobscot river over a three year period, but nothing compares to what they've gone through in such a short period of time," says Doran.

For the industry, federal aid is a lifeline to keep loggers going.

"Not only have we seen deflated wood pricing, but we've also seen a decrease in market share and inability to sell wood," adds Doran.

Tony Madden is a third-generation professional logger and owner of AW Madden in Milford, he is one of the many who has felt the loss of business during this pandemic year. "The mills just can't take what we produce," says Madden.

The aid will go to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that have, because of the coronavirus pandemic, experienced a loss of not less than 10% in gross revenue during January 1, 2020, until December 1, 2020, as compared to the gross revenue of the eligible entity during the same period in 2019.

"We would like to have more capacity, maybe some of the mills could expand, but if it's just getting everything back to normal, I think it's going to help quite a bit," says Madden.

"Our greatest frustration is that loggers are farmers of the forest, they are considered an agricultural crop, but yet nothing was done in the first-aid package, nothing was done in the second aid package..." says Doran.

Now, in the late aid package expected from Washington, industry members and contractors are hoping they receive a portion of that emergency relief, to help make up for the demand that has dropped off this year.

“Throughout Maine’s history, our forest products industry has supported good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and strengthened rural communities,” said Senator Collins. “This industry is built on the backs of our dedicated loggers, who sustainably harvest and haul one of Maine’s most precious resources. 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 paper machine at Sappi in Westbrook." 

“Between COVID-19 and the Jay Mill explosion, many loggers and truck drivers are seeing work slow down as markets for their products decline. Maine loggers don’t want a handout, but they deserve the same support during tough times that we have already provided for farmers and fishermen,” said Congressman Golden. "Once this bill is law, we’ll keep working together to make sure these funds get to Maine loggers and truckers.”

“For generations, Maine’s forest products industry has supported jobs and communities, especially in our state’s rural regions,” said Senator King. “Thanks to our state’s abundant forests and our world-class workforce, Maine has been a global leader in this important industry. The sector has faced hard times, and weathered them – but the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily curbed market demand for forest products, and have contributed to the immense challenges facing this industry. This industry is essential to communities across our state, and I will continue to stand behind its workers in the challenging days ahead.”

“Maine’s forests are a vital part of our way of life and our economy, supporting more than 34,000 jobs and serving as the backbone of our rural communities. That’s why I’ve advocated for meaningful relief for the logging industry from the very beginning of this economic crisis. This funding will help to support the forest products industry as they weather this storm,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “I know this package doesn’t solve all of the pressure this industry is facing, and while it certainly doesn’t go far enough to support Maine families who are struggling during this crisis, I’m proud that this bill includes targeted funding for the forest products industry as they report historic reductions in their markets.”

According to the PLC, Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $7.7 billion annually.