The timber industry was having issues before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tariffs from China were putting a strain on the industry.
Then the pandemic hit, and mills slowed production or closed altogether.
While lumber prices shot up during the height of the pandemic, timbers harvesters and haulers weren’t benefiting from it.
It’s that cumulation that makes the relief funding for those harvesters and haulers so critical, according to Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin).
“We’ve seen this hit especially hard in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and in Central Wisconsin, but really it’s impacting the forest products industry across our state and across the nation,” said Baldwin. “We know that loggers and haulers are a key part of our forest products industry. They’re essential to the thousands of jobs dependent on the fiber that they deliver to our mills, both in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.”
After relief for loggers was left out of the CARES ACT, the first federal pandemic relief package, the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020 was passed in December.
That designated $200 million to the USDA specifically for timber harvesters and haulers.
More than six months and loggers are just able to start applying for it Thursday, July 22.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the delay was mostly due to the administration change and all the other pandemic-related funding the USDA is working to get out.
“Basically, processing these programs. It isn’t just the USDA that has to sign off on them. Before we can announce, before we can expend resources, we have to get the approval of the office of management and budget. They obviously have a relatively small staff at the OMB, which not only deals with our work, but the work of every other federal agency. So it takes a little bit of time,” said Vilsack.
The sign-up process begins Thursday. Those in the timber industry call apply through their local USDA office. You can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.
The Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers program (PATHH) is administered by FSA in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. 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.
To be eligible for payments, individuals or legal entities must be a timber harvesting or timber hauling business where 50% or more of its gross revenue is derived from one or more of the following:
- Cutting timber.
- Transporting timber.
- Processing of wood on-site on the forest land (chipping, grinding, converting to biochar, cutting to smaller lengths, etc.).
Secretary Vilsack says payments will go out on a rolling basis in a two-payment system.
As people are verified, they’ll get an initial $2,000.
With the funding that remains after that, loggers could get up to $125,000 based on their losses in the last year and how much money is available.
The deadline to apply is October 15th.