WASHINGTON, D.C. [7/23/20] – This week, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide relief to logging and log hauling businesses that have been seriously impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis.
The lawmakers’ bipartisan bill would establish a new program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide direct payments to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that can demonstrate they have experienced significant economic hardship compared to the previous year. The logging industry has experienced a steep decline in demand for wood fiber since the coronavirus pandemic began, leading to an estimated 20 percent or more drop in the timber harvest this year.
“We need to support Minnesota’s diverse timber industry during the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sen. Smith. “This bipartisan legislation will provide critical relief to loggers and timber trucking businesses whose revenues have suffered during this unprecedented time. For the sake of Minnesota forest products, and the jobs they support, we need to move this bill forward.”
“Throughout Maine’s history, our forest products industry has created good-paying jobs, driven local economies, and sustained rural communities,” said Sen. Collins. “This industry was 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. COVID-19 has only compounded these challenges. Maine’s family logging and log hauling businesses need our support. Our bipartisan bill would provide critical financial assistance to the skilled professionals who work in this industry to help them get through this difficult period.”
The program envisioned in the bill is modeled after the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which has been providing direct relief to growers and producers experiencing dramatic drops in prices and overall business activity due to the pandemic. Specifically, the legislation would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to provide payments to eligible logging businesses that have experienced at least a 10 percent loss in revenues from January through July 2020 as compared to the same timeframe last year. Those who qualify would receive direct payments equal to 10 percent of their gross revenue from January through July of last year, and would only be permitted to use the funds for operating expenses, including payroll.
Under the CARES Act, Congress has already provided $300 million to the nation’s fishing industry and $16 billion for dairy and livestock producers as well as fruit and vegetable growers.
The bill is also supported by Senator Angus King (I-Maine). A House companion bill was introduced by Congressmen Jared Golden (Maine-02) and David Rouzer (N.C.-07).