Group challenges US and Canadian Governments’ settlement of long-standing Softwood Lumber Trade Dispute

Lumber manufacturers representing firms with operations in more than 16 states were in Washington, DC last week to appeal to Members of Congress to intervene in the Administration’s plans to provide preferential financial benefits of $500 million to a small portion of the US industry. This cash in the hands of a few selected companies will destabilize the domestic lumber industry and circumvents the Congress through an off-budget escrow account.

“We have more than 30 companies that are petitioning the government to abandon its plan to refund duties collected on softwood lumber imports into an off-budget US escrow account to be given to the US Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports,” said David Slaughter, spokesperson for Lumber Manufacturers for Ethics and Equality (LMEE). “This is wrong, creative accounting and mis- handling of Treasury funds, with no budget oversight from Congress.”

Slaughter said that the LMEE is investigating possible legal action to block the total $500 million from being distributed or used without Congressional action and oversight. He said that if the money can be legally handed back by Canada, it should be kept in the Treasury and used for construction of affordable homes throughout the country.

Canada and the US have been in a decades-long dispute over softwood lumber imports. This summer, negotiators for the two countries reached an agreement that is designed to end the dispute for up to nine years. Part of the deal, however, hands back to the US lumber companies that brought the trade actions against Canada one-half billion of the five billion in duties collected since 2001.

“Giving the petitioners this money will allow them to undercut other competitor lumber companies and even buy out smaller companies, cutting jobs and raising home costs,” Slaughter said. “It also appears to circumvent a US Court of International Trade ruling that giving money to trade case petitioners under the Byrd Amendment would be a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Administration wants to give cash to a select group of US companies, harming their competitors.”

Slaughter also said that USTR failed to follow US law requiring it to consider the public interest, and to consult with potentially affected domestic producers and workers. No effort was taken to communicate with or involve non-petitioner companies over the past five years.

Members companies who are petitioning to have the decision to funnel cash to some domestic producers blocked include:

Members - Lumber Manufacturers for Ethics and Equity

Amelia Lumber Co, Amelia, Virginia

A.V. Littrell Lumber Mill, Tishomingo, Mississippi

Ayres & Baker Pole & Post Inc., Mountain View, Wyoming

Bean Lumber Co, Inc., Glenwood, Arkansas

Brittain Lumber Company, Statesville, North Carolina

Busy B Cedar Inc., Priest River, Idaho

Caffall Brothers Forest Products, Portland, Oregon

Cedar Creek Horselogging & Milling Inc., Nevada City, California

Cold Stream Lumber Co., West Enfield, Maine

Dejarnette Lumber Company, Milford, Virginia

J.D. Lumber Inc., Priest River, Idaho

Lamell Lumber Corp, Essex Junction, Vermont

Lampe & Malphrus Co., Smithfield, North Carolina

Lewis County Forest Products, Winlock, Washington

Littrell Lumber Mill, Decatur, Alabama

Mason County Forest Products, Shelton, Washington

North End Timber Products, Olney, Montana

Oakville Forest Products, Oakville, Washington

Patenaude Lumber Co. Inc., Henniker, New Hampshire

Ponderay Valley Fibre, Usk, Washington

Portac, Inc., Tacoma, Washington

Precision Pine & Timber Inc., Heber, Arizona

Pukall Lumber Co., Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin

Rosboro Lumber Co., Springfield, Oregon

RSG Forest Products, Kalama, Washington

Tricon Timber LLC, St. Regis, Montana

Trinity River Lumber Co., Weaverville, California

Troy Lumber Co., Troy, North Carolina