Collins requests pandemic emergency funds for nation’s loggers, log haulers

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and a bipartisan group of several colleagues last week urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help prevent American loggers and log haulers from falling through the gaps of the federal government’s COVID-19 economic relief programs.

“We believe that USDA is uniquely positioned to respond to the crisis facing so many loggers whose operations have been seriously harmed by the effects of the pandemic,” Sen. Collins wrote in a Sept. 18 letter she led to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The senators pointed out that America’s forest products industry supports over $283 billion in value-added wood and paper products, as well as a supply chain of nearly one million Americans who earn more than $54 billion in combined payroll.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also has deemed the nation’s forest products industry as part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce during the COVID-19 response. 

“Given how vital this workforce is to our economy, it is alarming that loggers in some regions have reported 40-50 percent losses this year due to COVID-19,” wrote Sen. Collins and the lawmakers, who included U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

The CARES Act appropriated a total of $16 billion to USDA to “respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus,” according to the senators’ letter.

“In light of the dire situation facing loggers and log haulers, we urge the department to use its broad authority and funds already provided by Congress to immediately make financial assistance available to loggers and log haulers impacted by the pandemic,” they wrote.

Sen. Collins also in July joined U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and U.S. Reps. David Rouzer (R-NC) and Jared Golden (D-ME) to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Loggers Relief Act, S. 4233/H.R. 7690, which would authorize USDA to provide direct support to loggers and log haulers who experienced at least a 10 percent loss in the first seven months of 2020, as compared to 2019. 

The measure remains under committee consideration in both houses of Congress.