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May 18, 2017

Bill to support Maine's loggers earns bipartisan committee vote

PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY
PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY
Tom Cushman, owner of Maine Custom Woodlands, on a feller buncher in the woods in Gray last spring. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, would support Maine loggers by requiring any state agency that contracts for the acquisition of timber to give preference to products harvested in Maine by in-state contractors.

The Legislature's State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday gave bipartisan support to a bill by state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would support growth in Maine's traditional forest product industries by giving preference to timber harvested by Mainers within the state's borders.

LD 1573 would require any state agency that contracts for the acquisition of timber to give a preference to products harvested in Maine by in-state contractors. The committee voted 10-1 to recommend that the Legislature pass the bill into law.

"This bill makes clear that Maine is all in on its loggers and the other men and women who work in the industry that built our state," said Jackson, a logger whose family continues to harvest wood in Maine's northern forests. "Families like mine who earn a living in the woods are being squeezed out by unfair international competition. The least Maine can do is pledge to support our own workers and our own sawmills when it needs wood products."

As Mainebiz has reported, well-documented shocks to the pulp and paper industry have rocked the forest products industry. Those challenges have been exacerbated by international competition, specifically the heavily subsidized Canadian logging sector.

Maine sawmills, pellet mills, loggers and the truckers who haul wood are at a disadvantage competing with Canadians, whose health care, labor and source material parts are subsidized by their national and provincial governments. In many instances, Canadian loggers harvest American wood to be processed in Canadian facilities and sold back to Americans.

As of 2014, logging contractors in Maine employed over 4,200 people and were responsible for the injection of $882 million into the state's economy, according to the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.

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