Are you concerned about the future of the timber industry? If not, you are most likely in the minority. Mill closures, mergers, high cost of raw materials, shortage of qualified operators, the constant barrage of government regulations, and the overall high cost of running a business today are just a few of the many hurdles that we all must navigate in order to stay afloat. While the American Loggers Council (ALC) can’t solve all these issues, they are currently working on many of them and will continue to do so into the future.
When my term as ALC President started last fall, I listed a set of goals that I wanted to accomplish. The issue at the top of that list was to address the entrance of the next generation of timber harvesters into our industry. In order for this industry to survive, we must have a qualified and competent work force to not only operate equipment but to also take over the reins of running the business when the current owner decides to step away. This issue is one that the ALC has been working on for a number of years now and just started to gain some momentum with the introduction of H.R.4590 and S.2335.
The Future Logging Careers Act – H.R.4590 was introduced by Rep. Labrador (R-ID ) while the Youth Careers In Logging Act -S.2335 was introduced by Sen. Risch (R-ID) and Sen.Crapo (R-ID ). Both of these bills would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 so that 16 and 17 year olds would be allowed to work in mechanized logging operations under parental supervision.
Timber harvesting operations are similar to family farms – but with sophisticated and expensive harvesting equipment that requires young men and women to learn how to run the business, including equipment operation, maintenance and safety prior to the age of 18. However, young men and women in families who own and operate timber harvesting companies are denied the opportunity to work and learn the family trade until they reach adulthood. The potential next generation of professional timber harvesters are being denied the opportunity to make logging their career of choice until after they turn 18 because of outdated Child Labor Law Regulations while the agriculture industry is exempt from said regulations.
While much progress has been made in just the last couple of months, there is still a lot of work to be done if we want to see these bills passed into law. A vast majority of bills introduced in Congress end up dying in committee, so it is critical that we all do our part to ensure that these bills are passed out of committee and eventually signed into law.
Regardless of whether you work as a logger, work in a mill, or work for a timber company this issue has the potential to affect the entire wood supply chain because as current loggers leave the business there needs to be a new generation coming in or eventually our industry will cease to exist.
H.R.4590 has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce while S.2335 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
It is imperative that we contact directly as many House and Senate offices as possible and ask them to support the bill, so please pass this alert along to anyone who you feel is willing to respond, including other organizations and vendors who you do business with. We will need a majority in both the House and Senate to pass the bill once it comes to the floor for a vote!
If you are unsure of who your congressional delegates are then please contact the ALC office or go to the ALC website to find their contact information. I urge everyone in the timber industry to either make a call or send an email to their respective Senate and House members to get them to support this very important issue to our industry. The more Senate and House members hear from us the more likely they will be to support this and the more of them that support this the better chance we have of moving it forward.
Until next time,
Brian Nelson is the current President of the American Loggers Council and he and his brother David and father Marvin own and operate Marvin Nelson Forest Products, Inc. based out of Cornell, Michigan.
The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US. For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.