Who is really profiting off timber harvest?

Published 9:37 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

To the Editor:

I have been a tree farmer for over 50 years. We provide a valuable resource of wood fiber for the people of this country. The price of Stumpage (standing trees grown by the Tree Farmer) has changed over the last 42 years compared to the price of finished lumber produced by the Saw and Pulp Mills.

I am approaching the age of 77 and I remember reading “Weekly Reader” as required reading when I was in the Fifth Grade. One of the frequent articles in the “Weekly” was about how good it was to plant trees and the amount of money you could make off of thinning Pulpwood and cutting of Saw Timber and encourage young people to be good conservationist like the President had encouraged with the WPA and CCC programs during the great depression and make a return on your investment in time and costs of trees.

I have never been so disappointed at anything I have ever done as to plant trees and lose 4 percent per year so the Economic Royalist can profit from the creation of the oversupply of trees resulting in cheap prices of trees allowing great profits going to the Saw and Pulp Mills. President Trump has made an effort to reduce “dumping” of timber and lumber from Canada into the United States in an effort to reduce the oversupply. As a result of the lobbying efforts of the Mills, the tree farmer has been faced with more regulations and fines if we don’t plant trees. Many Mills have sold off their tree farming lands because it is easier to pay lobbyist to force the private land owner to grow trees at a loss than to grow it themselves.

Once a land owner plants trees, it takes 40 years or more to grow merchantable timber. Some small amount of pulpwood may be cut after 20 to 25 years. A tree farmer can’t decide to get out of their tree crop after one year for they make a commitment for 40 years until the trees are mature. Most tree farmers will have one timber harvest in a lifetime and, therefore, are not fully informed of what is happening to them.

The Mills use buying techniques to lower the price. Some of these techniques include the Mills buying the timber only through a network of buyers who “fix” the prices at the prices dictated by the mills. You might want to view the NETFLICK movie called “Rotten” which describes how buyers in the food industry fix prices to reduce the grower and fisherman’s price. Some of the other techniques the wood industry has used are through a consolidation of industries and consolidation of their buying through “dealers” to reduce prices. These techniques have allowed the Mills to buy at cheaper prices so they can make more profits and control prices.

I hope you find this informative and since so many people in the state and nation are affected by tree farming, it may be of interest to your readers.

Tom Keith