Fording a flood of cheaper lumber imported from Canada, local lumber interests met with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden Tuesday to jointly call for a new trade agreement or risk whittling the industry at home. “What we need is a fair system that allows individuals and companies on both sides of the border to feel they are being treated fairly,” Wyden, D-Oregon, said. “… What this comes down to, folks, is what I call trade-done-right.”
Wyden pit-stopped at a Roseburg Forest Products mill in Dillard Tuesday morning to share the latest on talks to hammer out the agreement, which would succeed the Softwood Lumber Agreement that limits the amount of lumber Canada can export to the U.S.
The agreement, which was ratified in 2006, expired last October and gave way to lumber from the neighbors up north to come pouring in. According to Grady Mulberry, CEO of Roseburg Forest Products, lumber from Canada is up 43 percent since the deal expired and prices have been driven down by nearly a quarter on the dollar. “It’s certainly very impactful on Oregon mills like ours and it certainly makes it very hard for us to compete,” Mulberry said.
The last agreement was established in 2006, but trade deals over lumber between Canada and the U.S. reportedly date back to the 1980s. Domestic lumber companies have contended that harvests up north were aided by subsidies from the Canadian government and created a product too cheap for local companies to compete with.
But the pact expired last fall, bringing along with it a one-year freeze on trade tariffs and paving the way for Canadian companies to import freely until this October. With that deadline approaching, some fear what will happen to the domestic market if a deal isn’t struck soon.