Mississippi Logging Industry Challenged in 2020 -
Federal Relief Package for the Logging Industry Needs Support
The logging and log trucking industry, even at the best of times, is an uphill challenge of ever-changing circumstances in which the logger or log trucker have absolutely no control. It is a job most people would not even dream of doing simply because of the danger and risk that these men and women face on a daily basis. Not only is it dangerous, it takes a large amount of capital to invest in a business with a marginal return on investment. Our logging and log trucking industry is primarily made up of small family owned businesses that have been logging for generations. These people are some of the hardest working people in our state and throughout the country.
As I mentioned, this industry is hard even when things are good. Although the industry was deemed essential and was allowed to continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue with mill closures and production roll backs had a huge affect throughout the state. Exports began to slow down at one of the busiest times of the year because of the COVID-19 in China and other parts of the country. The industry also had been feeling the effects of tariffs on exports, especially in the hardwood lumber market. This pandemic came on the heels of an extremely long wet winter that had near record rainfall for the state. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the final blow to many logging and log trucking businesses in the state. Many may say that it is a small industry, and the economic effect won’t be noticed. In fact, the logging and log trucking industry are the drive train of the nearly $13 billion dollar industry in the state. The forest industry is the #2 industry in the state! The logging and forest industry is largely responsible for building the economy in this state, as well as, many other states.
Many loggers were eligible for the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) and took advantage of the assistance. The problem is that payroll is such a small portion of the operating expenses of a logging or log trucking business. Insurance, equipment payments and repairs as well as fuel and oil products are the biggest portion of expenses for the industry. The loggers have not been able to work due to mill closures and production reduction at mills. This makes it really difficult to keep up with the fixed cost of owning a logging or log trucking company. Many other states have reported more significant losses in revenue for the logging industry as well.
The Mississippi Loggers Association and its members have joined a national effort with the American Loggers Council and the 34 state association affiliates to seek federal assistance due to the economic impact on the industry because of the ongoing pandemic. Loggers have never asked for any federal assistance for anything and have always managed to get through the hard times. These times are unprecedented, which calls for unprecedented measures.
The proposal is for $2.5 billion dollars that would be reserved for contractors that harvested/delivered wood to various mills across the country in 2019 to apply for low interest loans/ grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist them with their ability to continue business operations for the next 12 months while their markets attempt to recover, much like the assistance already given to producers of agricultural and seafood commodities.
If a company that applies for and receives the funding can prove that their revenues orvolume delivered are down 10% or more from 2019, the funds will be treated as a grant and forgiven. If company revenues are down less than 10% than what they declared in 2019, the funds will become a low interest loan and need to be repaid.
Loggers don’t typically want the spotlight on them. Most loggers just want to go to work to do a job they are truly passionate about and come home to spend time with their families. I have to say that every person should thank a logger when they see them. Their job is the start of so many of the things that are essential that we use on a daily basis. TOILET PAPER!!!! ENOUGH SAID!!!!
David S. Livingston, Executive Director of the Mississippi Loggers Association