Thursday, October 29, 2015

Big and small mills lobby for piece of the timber pie

Tucked deep in Congress' bill to fund the government in 2015 was a request to the Forest Service: Get moving on a long-stalled rule that could aid the survival of America's small timber mills. The report language "strongly encouraged" the agency to write a directive that could ensure small mills are not bullied out of federal timber contracts by larger, better-capitalized corporations. The language, which was backed by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), signaled Congress' growing involvement in a debate that has sown deep rifts within the forest products industry. At issue is whether protections for small businesses currently in place for conventional timber sales should be extended to stewardship sales, which are an increasingly popular way for the Forest Service to sell timber. The debate could be one of many policy flashpoints as lawmakers debate an omnibus spending bill to keep the government running past Dec. 11. And it's an issue that has blurred party lines and pitted small-business advocates against labor unions in a battle for access to federal timber...more

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