The U.S. Lumber Coalition has expressed concern over recent announced and implied aid programs across Canada to benefit the Canada's lumber and forest products industry.
"The announcements of additional aid to Canadian producers are of particular concern in the already difficult market environment for U.S. producers and workers brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic," it said in a release.
"The Coalition will closely examine the details of each and every announcement of aid and will aggressively pursue any initiative that constitutes further aid to the already heavily subsidized Canadian softwood lumber industry. "
"The last thing the U.S. industry, its workers, and forestry dependent communities need at this difficult time is even more heavily subsidized and unfairly traded Canadian lumber imports further disrupting our markets," said Jason Brochu, Co-President of Pleasant River Lumber Company, Maine.
One new policy designed to provide aid was the deferral of stumpage fees in British Columbia for three months. Stumpage is the fee forest operators pay the province to harvest, buy or sell trees.
Forest Minister Doug Donaldson said the decision should help forest companies with their finances during the crisis. Donaldson said there are 45 B.C. sawmills closed indefinitely or shut down permanently - currently impacting 7,000 workers. Timber exports remain extremely low, especially to the U.S., where he said housing starts have slowed.
The Forest Ministry was careful to call it a deferral, and not a subsidy, as fees will have to be repaid with interest.
Canada's forest revenues were already down before COVID-19, with harvest volumes the lowest in years, said the Ministry.
The United States International Trade Commission has ruled that the U.S. lumber industry is materially injured by Canadian government subsidies of their softwood lumber industry, and the U.S. Department of Commerce has confirmed that Canadian producers continue to be heavily subsidized.
"The U.S. lumber industry will continue to push for the full enforcement of the U.S. trade laws against Canada's unfair trade practices so that the U.S. lumber industry, and the 350,000 men and women who support it can continue to compete on a level playing field in a fair-trade environment," said Brochu.