Friday, October 18, 2019
The hardwood industry in the U.S. has been shrinking for decades. But in the wake of the Great Recession, China has been a bright spot. That is, until the trade war. Since Chinese counter-tariffs took effect last September, industry leaders estimate a decrease of more than 40% in exports to China, and a $615 million drop in the total value of lumber exports. In May, the Trump administration granted U.S. farmers " including soybeans " a $16 billion relief package intended to help make up for losses related to the trade war. But the hardwood industry has received no such support. "Unlike the other main row crops," French says, "we have gotten absolutely no support other than comments of, you know, 'take one for the team' or, 'we can't help you " it's too complicated,' 'you're not really an agricultural product.' "
The trade war has had a particularly "devastating" impact on sawmills in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Hourdequin says, with mills cutting hours, and some closing their doors.
"And the irony, I mean, as with agricultural commodities, is the hardwood industry in general comes from red states and a lot of the hardwood sawmillers were supporters of Trump, and in some cases willing to take a bloody nose for what some believed was the greater good of getting China to play fair in other industries," he says. "I think that what the industry didn't realize was how long this trade war would go on for."
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