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Business & Economics

Verso Plant Closing Highlights Logger Relief Package In Congress

Pixabay.com MemoryCatche

The American Loggers Council and state logging associations are supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress providing economic relief to timber harvesters and timber haulers impacted by COVID-19.

Locally, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association headquartered in Rhinelander says COVID and the loss of the Verso paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth are causing major impacts.

Henry Schienenbeck says the Verso shutdown was accelerated by the COVID outbreak, idling some 1,000 workers. He says other than Georgia, all other timber producing states are seeing bad economic times.

"A lot of our members were telling us their production was down somewhere between 30 and 50 percent right after spring thaw which is pretty unusual. The market conditions...COVID hit in that March time. They were already down in production.."

Then the Verso announcement further depressed the market. Schienenbeck says the Rapids mill alone used 1.5 million tons of wood each year. That figure is about 25 percent of the total production in Wisconsin. He says that shutdown has a ripple effect on jobs...

"This is not just the workers in the mill..this is impacting 10,000 jobs or more..."

Analysts say nationally, timber prices are down about 20 percent. Schienenbeck  says the proposed federal relief bill is based on a loggers pre-COVID income.

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