AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine issued a statement of support today for the workers and communities affected by layoffs announced this morning at Verso Corp.’s Jay paper mill which will have an immediate effect on professional loggers throughout Maine as the mill reduces its paper production in 2017.
Verso Corp. will lay off 190 workers in Jay early next year as it idles its No. 3 paper machine, reducing its capacity to produce coated paper by about 200,000 tons. Based on a typical ratio of fiber required to produce a ton of paper, a cut in production of that magnitude will most likely lead to a reduction in fiber consumption of about 500,000 tons, which will immediately hurt hundreds of loggers across Maine who rely on the mill as a market for timber. Verso buys large quantities of wood to make its varieties of coated paper.
“Our members are very supportive of our paper mill partners and workers, and the mills are vital to our industry,” said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the PLC. “Verso’s Jay mill is a major purchaser of wood fiber and this news will affect hundreds of logging jobs in our state. While this is another challenge for Maine’s evolving pulp and paper industry, the PLC and loggers across the state will do all we can to help and make the best of a tough situation.”
The announcement is the latest in a series of mill closures and shutdowns to hit Maine’s loggers in the past year and a half. Losses have included Verso’s Bucksport mill, the Expera Old Town LLC pulp mill, the Lincoln Paper and Tissue LLC mill, the Madison Paper Industries mill, and two biomass facilities owned by Covanta Holding Corp.
Previous cutbacks at Verso’s Jay mill have also affected loggers; Verso announced in late August 2015 plans to lay off 300 workers at the Jay mill, shutting down its No. 1 pulp dryer and No. 2 paper machine, and reducing its coated paper capacity by about 23 percent.
Verso’s announcement today serves as yet another wakeup call that inaction is not an option for Maine’s forest products industry and the loggers who depend on it, Doran said.
“This should be a reminder that now is the time for Maine’s legislators, business leaders, communities, and industries to pull together and support every effort to preserve our forest products economy,” Doran said. “There are good things happening in that economy and many opportunities on the horizon for growth and success, but the whole is threatened if our logging workforce is unable to survive, and that means we must support markets for wood fiber from biomass to pulp to saw logs that enable our loggers to remain in business.”
One way industries can help Maine loggers is to utilize as much wood fiber harvested within the state as possible.
“We are at a critical point right now because of the loss of so many markets, and any way our mills can help sustain our loggers by purchasing more Maine fiber is greatly appreciated,” Doran said.
The PLC has and will continue to work with its members, paper mill partners, and local legislators to seek solutions to the challenges facing the pulp and paper industry in Maine and the loggers who supply roundwood, clean chips, and biomass to local mills. The PLC is currently working closely with a federal task force to address the ongoing crisis in Maine’s forest products industry, and with a commission established by the Maine Legislature to conduct the first in-depth assessment of opportunities in the state’s struggling biomass industry.
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $8.5 billion annually. Maine’s logging industry contributes $882 million to the state’s economy each year and supports more than 7,300 direct and indirect jobs in the state.