AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine cheered the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that $200 million in aid for timber harvesters and haulers included in a bipartisan $900 billion COVID-19 relief package approved more than six months ago will finally be released and Maine loggers and truckers can begin applying for the funds this Thursday, July 22.
The announcement was made in a morning press call led by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin.
The PLC thanked Maine’s entire congressional delegation for working to ensure the logging industry was not left out of federal pandemic assistance, and pushing over the past months for the funds to be distributed as quickly as possible. U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Representative Jared Golden introduced the bill to create the new program for loggers and log haulers who had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in July of 2020 and Congresswoman Pingree and Maine Senator Angus King joined the bipartisan effort.
“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.” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said. “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 the 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.”
Loggers and truckers can apply for assistance through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) July 22 through Oct. 15, 2021. The Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers program (PATHH), which is the program’s designation, is administered by FSA in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, authorized this critical assistance for the timber industry. Timber harvesting and hauling businesses that have experienced a gross revenue loss of at least 10% during the period of Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2020, compared to the period of Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2019, are encouraged to apply.
The full USDA announcement including eligibility and application guidelines is available at https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2021/07/20/usda-announces-pandemic-assistance-timber-harvesters-and-haulers
The aid package was approved by the U.S. House and Senate and then signed by former President Donald Trump in December 2020.
Maine’s timber harvesters and haulers were hit hard by the pandemic’s economic effects in 2020, and continue to struggle today. Most Maine logging contractors who are members of the PLC, the state’s trade association for timber harvesters and haulers, reported a 30-40 percent reduction in wood markets in 2020. Many suffered severe revenue losses, layoffs, loss of clients, reduced productivity, and inability to plan for the future. The loss of the Pixelle Specialty Solutions pulp mill in Jay to an explosion in April 2020 worsened an already deteriorating economic storm for most in the industry.
Maine’s entire Congressional delegation and representatives of other timber-producing states have supported aid proposals for U.S. timber harvesters and haulers for many months, but until now the industry has been left out of every previous relief package while billions have flowed to farmers, fishermen, and even growers of Christmas trees.
On Sept. 18, 2020, President Donald Trump and USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the launch of the nation’s second agriculture pandemic relief package, Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2). The new $14 billion package added tobacco, hemp and Christmas trees to the list of eligible crops, yet as with the first CFAP package, timber was left off the list. More than $7 billion in payments to farmers were approved in the first month of CFAP2 alone. Zero dollars went to timber harvesters and haulers.
In response, a bipartisan group of legislators from across the U.S. including Maine’s delegation fired off letters to Perdue seeking a change in CFAP that would allow loggers to qualify for aid. The change was denied.
The U.S. farming industry alone has received billions in federal aid to offset losses from the U.S.-China Trade War since 2018, and in 2020 received billions more to offset losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. Total federal aid to U.S. farmers in 2020 set records, reaching $40 billion by October. Though loggers are “farmers of the forest” harvesting a renewable crop, they received none last year.
“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,” said Dana Doran. “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.”
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $7.7 billion annually.
The logging industry contributed an estimated $619 million to the Maine economy in 2017, supported more than 9,000 jobs directly or indirectly, generated $342 million in labor income, and pumped an estimated $25 million into state and local tax coffers.
Founded in 1995 with a handful of members who were concerned about the future of the industry, the PLC has grown steadily to become a statewide trade association which provides independent logging contractors and truckers a voice in the rapidly changing forest products industry. Board membership consists of only loggers, making it an organization that is run by loggers on behalf of loggers.
Learn more about the PLC at www.maineloggers.com.