COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry
December 10, 2020
The timber industry is a diverse commodity industry, wherein cut trees (timber) are converted to
a wide variety of products made from wood (wood products). The Coronavirus Disease 2019
Anne A. Riddle
(COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the timber industry by changing consumer and producer
Analyst in Natural
behavior and threatening the health of timber industry workers. Effects to the wood products
Resources Policy
supply chain have been spread unevenly across sectors and regions and have varied over time as

the pandemic has progressed. Congress has not provided specific assistance to the timber
industry generally, although some timber-related businesses may have received assistance under

the provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L.
116-136). The timber industry recommends additional assistance, such as loans or direct payments, to prevent further impacts
to the sector.
COVID-19 has affected demand for some wood products and disrupted wood supply chains. Impacts have differed greatly
across sectors, due to the differing final uses of wood products. Paper is a diverse sector, comprising cardboard, bath tissue,
writing and printing paper, and other products, and demand comes from public places (e.g., offices and schools), home use,
and shipping. Thus, although some disruptions to the sector have occurred, overall impacts have been minimal. Demand for
lumber and engineered wood products is driven primarily by residential construction. Early in the pandemic, producers of
these products anticipated lower demand due to a declining housing market and therefore decreased production. However,
demand remained strong, resulting in shortages, and prices for some products rose to historically high levels. Despite strong
demand for some wood products, overall demand for timber decreased compared with 2019, as did timber prices, although
the decline in timber prices was in line with recent trends. Disruptions to the sector likely will continue until the virus is
contained and use of public places resumes, and these disruptions may evolve further along with economic conditions.
Although Congress has not provided specific assistance to the timber industry, the CARES Act provided general assistance to
businesses and employees in the form of loans, advances, supplements to state unemployment benefits, tax relief, and paid
leave. The Forest Service (FS) also has authorized additional time to harvest timber on federal lands for specified timber
Market disruptions have led some stakeholders to conclude that additional assistance is needed to provide relief to the timber
industry. In the 116th Congress, S. 4233 and H.R. 7690 would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to make relief payments
to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that experienced specified economic losses; these relief payments could be used
to cover operating expenses. Members of Congress also have requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
make timber harvesting and hauling businesses eligible for support payments for agricultural producers authorized under the
CARES Act. Other stakeholders have proposed additional approaches to providing congressional relief to the timber
industry, such as low-interest loans or programs to increase demand for wood products. In the past, Congress has authorized
relief for federal timber purchasers, such as contract buyouts, and for forest landowners. Congress may decide that specific
assistance to the timber industry is not warranted if, for example, existing assistance is considered sufficient, assistance to
businesses generally is thought to cover the timber industry sufficiently, or industry impacts are seen as transient.

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Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
The U.S. Timber Industry ................................................................................................. 1
Effects of COVID-19 on the Timber Industry ...................................................................... 4
Timber Harvesting ..................................................................................................... 4
Processing and Manufacturing ..................................................................................... 6
Trade ....................................................................................................................... 7
Lumber .................................................................................................................... 7
Paper Products .......................................................................................................... 9
COVID-19 and Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands.......................................................... 10
Forest Service Timber Contract Flexibilities ................................................................ 11
Federal Assistance to the Timber Industry ......................................................................... 12
Options for Congress ..................................................................................................... 14
Financial Assistance to the Timber Industry ................................................................. 15
Expansion of Programs Created Under the CARES Act ................................................. 16
Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands .......................................................................... 16

Figure 1. Producer Price Index: Logs, Bolts, Timber, and Pulpwood ....................................... 5
Figure 2. Lumber Futures Prices, 2016-2020 ....................................................................... 8

Author Information ....................................................................................................... 17

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The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the timber industry by
changing consumer and producer behavior and threatening the health of timber industry workers.
These effects have been felt throughout the supply chain, which includes timber landowners,
timber harvesting and hauling businesses, timber processors and manufacturers, distributers,
retailers, and consumers. The pandemic’s impacts on the timber industry have varied according to
regional differences in the industry, changing demand for different products made from wood,
and the severity and timing of the pandemic’s supply chain effects.
Impacts to the timber industry have been spread unevenly across sectors and regions and have
varied over time as the pandemic has progressed. Some sectors have experienced minor overal
changes; for example, the pulp and paper industry’s overal prices in 2020 have been similar to
prices in 2019. However, in some timber industry sectors, such as lumber and consumer tissue,
markets have experienced supply shortages or historical y high prices as consumers and
producers struggle to anticipate and adjust to the pandemic’s effects. In others, such as newsprint
and glossy paper, the pandemic has accelerated trends toward low demand brought on by other
economic forces, such as declines in print media. Industry pressures have led to layoffs, closures,
and other impacts. Some effects have been transient, and some predictions about market
conditions (such as predictions about residential construction activity) have not occurred. The
pandemic’s ultimate impacts to the industry cannot yet be ascertained.
Congress has not provided specific assistance to the timber industry general y, although some
timber-related businesses may have received assistance under the provisions of the Coronavirus
Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act; P.L. 116-136). The Forest Service (FS) has
implemented relief measures for timber harvesting on the federal lands under its jurisdiction.
Further assistance has been proposed in the 116th Congress, such as S. 4233 and H.R. 7690. The
timber industry recommends additional assistance, such as loans or direct payments, to prevent
further impacts to the industry.
The U.S. Timber Industry
The timber industry is a diverse commodity industry, wherein cut trees (timber) are converted to a
wide variety of products made from wood (wood products), such as lumber, paper products,
furniture, and many others.1 The United States is the largest producer of wood for industrial use in
the world, harvesting 15.9 bil ion cubic feet in 2017.2 Characteristics of the U.S. timber industry
vary by region and are influenced by each region’s land ownership patterns, tree species,
transportation and processing infrastructure, and geography. The individual sectors within the
timber industry also vary widely in their production methods, trade relationships, and consumers.

1 T he timber industry does not include trees grown to provide crops for human consumption, such as orchards and
2 James Howard and Shaobo Liang, U.S. Timber Production, Trade, Consumption, and Price Statistics, Forest Service
(FS), FPL-RP-701, 2019 (hereinafter Howard and Liang, U.S. Tim ber Production); and Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), FAOSTAT Forestry Database, Forest Product Consum ption and Production , 2020. T imber may
be measured in cubic feet or in board feet (BF), a unit of wood equaling 1 inch by 12 inches by 12 inches. T he BF in a
log is not equal to the cubic feet in a log, as some wood is lost in the processing of a log to squared dimensions, and BF
cannot be directly converted to cubic feet.
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Timber is divided into two general categories with different supply chains, end uses, and
production methods:
Softwood timber refers to the wood of coniferous trees such as pine (Pinus sp.),
fir (Abies sp.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and spruce (Picea sp.).
Softwood timber is the primary material used in the construction industry in the
form of lumber (products sawn from logs), panel products (e.g., plywood,
particle board), and other products.3 Softwood timber also is processed into pulp
to produce paper products (e.g., cardboard, tissue, and writing paper) and used in
other applications.
Hardwood timber usual y refers to the wood of broadleaved trees such as oak
(Quercus sp.), maple (Acer sp.), walnut (Juglans sp.), and ash (Fraxinus sp.).4
Hardwood timber often is used in applications where durability, appearance, or
other specific traits are desirable, such as furniture, cabinetry, and flooring. It is
also used as pulp and lumber. Hardwoods are sometimes combined with
softwoods to reduce cost; for example, hardwood veneers may be bonded to
softwood plywood to create less costly finished products with the appearance of
In 2017, about 41% of U.S. wood production was for lumber and engineered wood products, 35%
was for pulp, and the remainder was for other uses. 5 Approximately 80% of U.S. lumber
production and 75% of U.S. pulp production were from softwoods.6 The construction industry is
an important source of U.S. timber demand; in 2017, about 69% of U.S. softwood lumber was
used for housing construction, along with significant amounts of other hardwood and softwood
products.7 The majority of softwood timber is produced in the South and the Pacific Northwest.8
Hardwood timber general y is produced in the eastern United States. The South is the largest U.S.
timber region, producing nearly 60% of al timber in the United States.9
The timber supply chain is characterized by many smal forest landowners. Approximately 63%
of U.S. forests and woodlands are privately owned by corporations, individuals, nonprofits, or
other nongovernmental groups.10 Approximately 43% of al forests and woodlands are owned by

3 In 2017, about 69% of softwood lumber was used in residential construction, including 30% used for new residential
construction and 39% used for remodeling or upkeep of existing construction. Howard and Liang, U.S. Tim ber

4 Despite the hardwood and softwood nomenclature used for these categories, there is great variation in actual wood
hardness within these groups. However, within the commercial species prevalent in the U.S. timber industry, softwoods
tend to be relatively fast -growing and soft compared to hardwoods.
5 Howard and Liang, U.S. Timber Production.
6 Howard and Liang, U.S. Timber Production.
7 Howard and Liang, U.S. Timber Production.
8 For the purposes of this report, the South consists of the states of Virginia, North Carolina, So uth Carolina, Georgia,
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, T exas, Kentucky, and T ennessee; however, sources cited may use
the term the South to refer to a subset of this region. T he Pacific Northwest consists of Washington and Oregon. In
addition, the timber industry may refer to Southern or Pacific Northwest (PNW) timber, which usually refers to species
of timber that generally grow in those respective areas but may occasionally grow outside them.
9 Jeffrey Prestemon and Robert Abt, “ T he Southern T imber Market to 2040,” Journal of Forestry, vol. 100, no. 7
(2002), pp. 16-22.
10 Sonja Oswalt et al., Forest Resources of the United States, 2017: A Technical Document Supporting the Forest
Service 2020 RPA Assessm ent
, FS, GT R-WO-97, March 2019 (hereinafter Oswalt, Forest Resources).
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an estimated 10.6 mil ion families.11 The remaining 37% is publicly owned by the federal
government, states, counties, or other units of government, with 28% of al U.S. forests and
woodlands owned by the federal government.12 Most timber harvesting in the United States takes
place on private lands; for example, in 2012, approximately 90% of U.S. wood and paper
products originated on private lands.13 Timber harvesting and hauling businesses vary in size, and
there are many smal firms, although relatively larger businesses harvest the majority of timber in
most areas.14
After timber is harvested, it is transported and processed. Making final products out of timber
may be a single- or multi-stage process. In general, it involves a first step of transforming logs
into a primary product such as lumber, wood chips, or wood pulp (timber processing). Some of
these products may not undergo further alteration (e.g., lumber). Others may act as materials for
further processing into other final products (wood product manufacturing, for the purposes of this
report).15 Timber processing or wood product manufacturing facilities are often capital intensive
(i.e., require costly, specialized equipment). Timber processing also may exhibit economies of
scale (i.e., costs that decrease with higher levels of production) and may require large quantities
of timber to meet a minimum level of efficient production.16 This scale economy, combined with
the general y high transportation cost of unprocessed wood, means that timber processing
businesses may be spatial y dispersed (i.e., relatively few, large facilities may be located in a
given area) and that buying and sel ing timber usual y occur relatively close to the harvest
In the short term, supply of some wood products may be relatively inelastic (i.e., may not change
much in response to changes in price), due to the time and expense needed to increase capacity,
open facilities, or switch products in capital-intensive industries.18 These factors may contribute
to facilities permanently or temporarily closing rather than switching to produce a new product if
demand decreases, although the reasons for such closures are complex and may involve other

11 Families is defined as individuals, families, trusts, estates, and family partnerships. Oswalt, Forest Resources.
12 Oswalt, Forest Resources.
13 Sonja Oswalt and W. Brad Smith, U.S. Forest Resource Facts and Historical Trends, FS, FS-1035, 2014.
14 Joseph Conrad IV, W. Dale Greene, and Patrick Heisl, “A Review of Changes in U.S. Logging Businesses, 1980s-
Present,” Journal of Forestry, vol. 116, no. 3 (2018), pp. 291-303. For example, a survey in the state of Washington
found that the majority of log-hauling companies were owner-driver companies with a single truck and trailer,
according to Larry Mason et al., The Washington Log Trucking Industry: Costs and Safety Analysis, Rural T echnology
Initiative, University of Washington, and T ransportation Research Group, Washington State University, Report to the
Washington State Legislature
, 2008.
15 When used colloquially, wood product manufacturing may not be inclusive of products made of wood pulp, such as
paper, cardboard, or tissue.
16 Brian Murray and Jeffrey Prestemon, “Structure and Efficiency of T imber Markets,” in Forests in a Market
Econom y
, ed. Erin Sills and Karen Abt (Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), pp. 153 -176.
Hereinafter, Murray and Presemon, “ T imber Markets.”
17 Murray and Presemon, “T imber Markets.” Logs generally are a costly commodity to transport compared to their
value, due to their weight and size. T ransport costs also may be affected by accessibility; for logs transport ed by road,
federal law controls both maximum gross vehicle weight and weight per axle of trucks on the Interstate Highway
System, which may limit the travel routes available to log trucks carrying certain loads (23 U.S.C. §127), and logs in
rugged terrain sometimes must be transported by air. T imber processing businesses tend to locate in spatially
distributed clusters of a few facilities each. See Glenn Ellison, Edward Glaeser, and William Kerr, “What Causes
Industry Agglomeration? Evidence from Coagglomeration Patterns,” Am erican Economic Review, vol. 100 (2010), pp.
1195-1213, and Consuelo Brandeis and Donald Hodges, “ Sawmill Industry in T ennessee: Assessing Location Pattern
Changes and T heir Effects on Sawlog Procurement Distribution,” Forest Science, vol. 64, no. 3 (2018), pp. 280-289.
18 Nianfu Song, Sun Joseph Chang, and Francisco Aguilar, “U.S. Softwood Lumber Demand and Supply Estimation
Using Cointegration in Dynamic Equations,” Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 17 (2011), pp. 19-33.
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factors. If few facilities are located in a given area, closures may have a large effect on local
timber industry profitability and employment.
Wood products are highly traded commodities in world markets, and supply chains may be
integrated across regions and trading partners to varying degrees. The United States is a net
importer of timber and wood products. For example, in 2017, U.S. timber-related imports totaled
approximately 3.5 mil ion cubic feet and timber-related exports totaled approximately 2.3 mil ion
cubic feet.19 As of 2017, Canada was the United States’ largest source of timber imports and
China was the largest single U.S. timber export market, though a substantial share is exported to
Canada and Mexico.20 A portion of the wood produced and exported from the United States is
processed into intermediate and finished products overseas, particularly in China, and
subsequently imported back into the United States.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Timber Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted timber and wood product markets, with substantial
variation across sectors. The timber industry’s diversity has resulted in uneven impacts. Some
sectors of the industry have been negatively affected through shortages, price fluctuations,
closures, and other disruptions; others have maintained or increased sales. The diversity of the
industry’s businesses and supply chains may have provided some resilience to the system as a
whole, but this resilience may mask stresses on different sectors. In addition, the pandemic’s
impacts have evolved over time, with demand, supply, and price sometimes changing over the
space of weeks or months. Current and comprehensive information on some industry sectors is
lacking due to the rapidly evolving situation, the diffuse nature of some timber industry sectors,
and other reasons. The following sections discuss impacts on various parts of the wood product
supply chain and wood product markets.
Timber Harvesting
Overal , demand for wood and the prices producers received for timber have been lower in 2020
than in 2019. Wood raw material consumption from January to July 2020 was 6.7% lower than
the same period in 2019, representing a 13% reduction ($1.83 bil ion) in value of the delivered
wood, although this figure does not account for demand from August 2020 onward.21
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average prices obtained by timber
producers in 2020 increased through April, then decreased through July, before increasing
through October (see Figure 1). According to BLS, producers received lower average prices
year-over-year (i.e., compared with the same month in 2019) in every month except October. The
smal est year-over-year difference in average prices was in March (producers received 1.1% less
in March 2020, compared with March 2019), the beginning of the pandemic in the United States.
The greatest year-over-year difference was in July (4.4% less in July 2020 than in July 2019).22

19 Howard and Liang, U.S. Timber Production.
20 Howard and Liang, U.S. Timber Production.
21 Forest2Market, United States Economic Impact: Forest Products Consumption , American Logger’s Council, August
28, 2020.
22 CRS calculation from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Producer Price Index (PPI) Commodity Data for lumber and
wood products, “logs, bolts, timber, and pulpwood,” accessed December 9, 2020, previously updated November 13,
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Figure 1. Producer Price Index: Logs, Bolts, Timber, and Pulpwood

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Producer Price Index (PPI), Commodities, Logs, Bolts, Timber, and
Pulpwood, monthly, not seasonal y adjusted, December 2011 = 100.
Notes: The PPI represents the average price producers receive for their products, expressed as a unitless index
where average prices in December of 2011 equal 100. Therefore, percentage changes in the PPI are the best
expression of price changes.
Price trends in different regions and products in 2020 sometimes differed from national averages,
although directly comparable data across regions and time periods are not available. For example,
the industry analysis firm Forest2Market found that average prices of standing timber (stumpage
) for al southeastern timber products decreased 11.5% between the first and second
quarters of 2020.23 Industry analytics firm TimberMart-South found that both stumpage prices
and average prices for harvested timber delivered to mil s (delivered prices) in the South fel in
the third quarter of 2020.24 Conversely, information from surveys by the Washington Department
of Natural Resources shows average delivered prices in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho general y
fel between the first and second quarters of 2020 but rose in the third quarter.25 Regional
performance between 2019 and 2020 similarly differs, with stumpage prices for sawtimber in the

23 Mike Powell, “ Despite Record Lumber Prices, Southern T imber Prices Plummeted During Lockdown,”
Forest2Market Blog, September 7, 2020. T hroughout this report, quarters refer to the quarters of the calendar year.
24 T imberMart-South, Quarterly Market Bulletin, Third Quarter 2020,” accessed October 27, 2020 (hereinafter,
T imberMart -South, Quarterly Market Bulletin). CRS calculation from Washington DNR, “ Survey Prices for Delivered
Logs,” each of January 2020-October 2020. T he timber industry uses both stumpage and delivered prices to assess
market performance, and the popularity and availability from publicly available sources of these prices differ by region
and industry; however, the two prices reflect different stages in the timber supply chain, and therefore their levels
generally differ. Stumpage prices reflect the value of standing timber at the time it is purchased (e.g., by a timber
harvesting business), and delivered prices reflect the value of harvested timber when purchased for primary processing
(i.e., “at the mill gate”). T hese prices have different strengths and weaknesses: for ex ample, stumpage may not reflect
current demand for wood because timber is not always harvested immediately, whereas delivered prices incorporate the
costs of harvesting and transporting the timber in addition to the timber’s value. Although the topic is un derstudied,
trends in stumpage and delivered prices may be related over time. See Zhuo Ning and Changyou Sun, “Vertical Price
T ransmission in T imber and Lumber Markets,” Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 20 (2014), pp.17-32.
25 CRS calculation from Washington DNR, “Survey Prices for Delivered Logs,” each of January 2020 -October 2020.
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South lower in 2020 than in the same period in 2019 and delivered prices in the Pacific Northwest
higher in 2020 than in the same period in 2019.26
It is unclear to what degree timber market changes in 2020 were directly related to the COVID-19
pandemic and to what degree they are attributable to the general long-term trend of stable or
declining timber prices.27 For example, TimberMart-South reports that, including the third quarter
of 2020, delivered prices for southern softwood sawtimber have remained “essential y
unchanged” since 2013, deviating no more than 3.4% (increase or decrease) from the per ton
average.28 Similarly, southern hardwood sawtimber per-ton average delivered prices have not
deviated more than 2.9% (increase or decrease) since 2014.29 Although the market situation for
some wood products changed rapidly throughout 2020 (see “Lumber” and “Paper Products”
below), overal timber prices general y do not change much as wood product markets fluctuate,
for a variety of reasons.30 In particular, timber prices are driven primarily by the inventory of
standing timber at any given time, along with the demand for timber from processors, and large
standing timber inventories in important timber-producing regions have contributed to lower
timber prices.31 Any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with other long-term trends,
may not be possible to ascertain in the near term.
Processing and Manufacturing
Businesses throughout the wood product supply chain, such as timber processors, wholesalers,
and consumers, have experienced varying impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the
beginning of the pandemic, federal guidance has designated businesses that “support the
manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and
other wood products,” as components of critical infrastructure within the food and agriculture
sector.32 However, state-mandated stay-at-home orders have varied, and in some states, wood
product-related businesses were ordered to close.33 Some industry sectors that were declared
essential nonetheless reduced capacity or curtailed operations for various reasons, such as to
reduce risk to workers or due to expectations of adverse market conditions.34 Some processing
and manufacturing facilities have closed permanently. Such closures may disrupt local

26 For example, industry firm T imberMart -South found that third-quarter stumpage prices for pine sawtimber in the
Southeast region decreased by 4.8% when compared with 2019 and hardwood sawtimber decreased by 4.6%. However,
third-quarter average delivered log prices in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho increased 7.0% compared with 2019.
T imberMart -South, “ Southeastern Average Stumpage Prices,” quarterly averages, accessed October 28, 2020, and CRS
calculation from Washington DNR, “Survey Prices for Delivered Logs,” each of July -September 2019 and 2020.
27 T imberMart-South, Quarterly Market Bulletin.
28 CRS calculation from T imberMart -South, Quarterly Market Bulletin.
29 CRS calculation from T imberMart -South, Quarterly Market Bulletin
30 Mo Zhou and Joseph Buongiorno, “Price T ransmission Between Products at Different Stages of Manufacturing in
Forest Industries,” Journal of Forest Economics, vol. 11 (2005), pp. 5-19.
31 Brooks Mendell, “ Forest Industry Q&A: Lumber Prices Versus T imber Prices and Other Recent T opics,” Forisk
, September 1, 2020; Joe Clark, “ How Does a Soaring Lumber Market Impact T imber Prices?,” Forest2Market
, August 24, 2020.
32 Christopher C. Krebs, Memorandum of Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19
, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, March 19, 2020.
33 For example, in Pennsylvania, manufacturers of veneer plywood, engineered wood products, furniture, and cabinets
were ordered to close. Karl Forth, “Is Your Company an Essential Business? It Depends,” Woodworking Network,
March 24, 2020.
34 For example, see T ed Sickinger, “Coronavirus Undercuts Oregon’s Wood Products Industry, Forestry Department
Budget,” Oregonian, April 4, 2020.
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communities due to the regional nature of timber markets, which sometimes means individual
facilities purchase a large proportion of local timber supply or are significant for local
employment.35 A number of factors may influence permanent closures, including (but not limited
to) COVID-19; these factors have contributed to a long-term trend in timber industry
consolidation since the 1990s.36 How the pandemic may affect this trend remains to be seen.
Lower economic activity in other countries and disruptions to parts of the transportation network
disrupted U.S. wood product trade. Early in the pandemic, some ports were closed, which
curtailed shipments, and worldwide shutdowns in construction and manufacturing weakened
international demand.37 As a result, trade activity in timber-related products general y decreased.
As of October 2020, the United States had exported approximately $24.0 bil ion in timber-related
products and had imported approximately $35.3 bil ion, in contrast to the year-to-date export
value of approximately $26.6 bil ion and the year-to-date import value of $35.8 bil ion in 2019.38
Early in 2020, the lumber supply chain contracted for numerous reasons.39 Housing starts
declined precipitously, fal ing 22.3% in March, and the lumber industry anticipated low overal
demand.40 Consequently, lumber mil s idled or curtailed production, with the industry analytics
firm Forisk estimating an overal reduction of softwood lumber capacity of over 15.6% in the first
quarter of 2020 and curtailments continuing into April.41 However, housing starts rose in June and
exceeded starts in 2019 through October.42 Demand for lumber for remodeling remained steady.43
As a result, lumber demand exceeded supply, leading to softwood lumber shortages and prices
that rose to record high levels in late August and early September 2020 (see Figure 2).44

35 For example, a Wisconsin paper plant that closed in July 2020 purchased approximately 25% of the pulpwood in
Wisconsin. T he closure was projected to affect more than 14,000 jobs, including 1,000 mill workers. Carey Biron,
“Paper Cuts: U.S. Coronavirus Downturn Hits T imber-Reliant T owns,” Reuters, September 23, 2020.
36 T imber industry consolidation includes timber processing and manufacturing plant closures, plan t expansions, and
product changes at existing plants. Peter Ince et al., Globalization and Structural Change in the U.S. Forest Sector: An
Evolving Context for Sustainable Forest Managem ent
, FS, FPL-GT R-170, 2007; C. Woodall et al., “ An Overview of
the Forest Products Sector Downturn in the United States,” Forest Products Journal, vol. 61, no. 8 (2011), pp. 595-603.
37 For example, see Hal Bernton, “In Rural Washington, Coronavirus Outbreak T akes a Big Bite Out of Pulp and
Shellfish Exports to China,” Seattle Times, March 7, 2020.
38 CRS, from Bureau of Economic Analysis, “U.S. International T rade in Goods and Services,” Exports, Imports, and
Balance of Goods by Selected NAICS-Based Product Code, Not Seasonally Adjusted, each of October 2019 and
October 2020. Sum of Forestry Products, Wood Products, and Paper Products.
39 Pete Stewart, “Why Are Lumber Prices at a Record High?,” Forest2Market Blog, August 18, 2020.
40 “U.S. Home Construction Fell 22.3% in March,” CNBC, April 16, 2020.
41 Brooks Mendell, “ Forisk Q1 2020 Update of Forest Industry Capital Investments and T imberland T ransactions,”
Forisk Blog, April 22, 2020.
42 United States Census Bureau, “Historical T ime Series Data,” Housing Units Started, New Privately Owned Housing
Units Started (Monthly), Not Seasonally Adjusted, accessed November 23, 2020.
43 John Greene, “ Lumber Prices Continue to Freefall,” Forest2Market Blog, October 22, 2020.
44 John Greene, “ Breaking: Have North American Lumber Prices Peaked?, Forest2Market Blog, September 21, 2020;
John Greene, “ Lumber Prices Continue to Freefall,” Forest2Market Blog, October 22, 2020.
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

Figure 2. Lumber Futures Prices, 2016-2020

Source: NASDAQ Commodity Trading Prices, Lumber, Daily Closing Prices, accessed November 5, 2020.
Notes: Lumber futures are exchange-traded contracts to deliver a specified amount of lumber at a given future
date. Lumber futures prices are not equivalent to prices of lumber transactions occurring in real time ( lumber
). Existing research suggests lumber futures may forecast lumber prices. Lumber futures closing prices are
reported daily on trading days. The figure has been smoothed between trading days. MBF = thousand board feet;
a board foot is a traditional unit for measuring lumber and equals 1 inch by 12 inches by 12 inches.
Although the available data sources for lumber vary by region and species, various sources agree
an extraordinary spike in lumber prices occurred in August and September 2020. Industry sources
reported average southern softwood lumber prices rose 67% between the second and third
quarters of 2020, from $442 to $738 per thousand board feet (MBF).45 In some weeks the price
was higher stil : in early September, some softwood lumber prices reached over $920 per MBF,
representing increases of 140% or more compared with the same weeks in 2019, depending on
the species and region.46 This increase was preceded by record-high lumber futures prices in late
August (see Figure 2). Some businesses, such as lumber wholesalers, distributers, and members
of the construction industry, reported shortages and rationing. For some, such as the construction
industry, the effect of higher lumber prices or shortages may have decreased revenues or output.47

45 John Greene, “ Breaking: Have North American Lumber Prices Peaked?, Forest2Market Blog, September 21, 2020.
46 For example, in the week ending September 11, 2020, prices for “Southern yellow pine” softwood lumber reached
$928 per MBF, a 146% increase over the same week in 2019. In the week ending September 4, 2020, “Western spruce -
pine-fir” 2x4 lumber reached $966 per MBF, an increase of 161% over 2019. “ Southern yellow pine” refers to four
pine species that grow in the South and have similar wood characteristics; most softwood lumber from the South is
Southern yellow pine. John Greene, “ Breaking: Have North American Lumber Prices Peaked?, Forest2Market Blog,
September 21, 2020, and Keta Kosman, “ Softwood Lumber Prices Increase By Smaller Amounts as Demand Slows,”
Madison’s Lumber Reporter, September 9, 2020.
47 For example, see “Rising Price of Lumber Putting People in a Pinch,” KMOV4-St. Louis, October 12, 2020, and Russ
O'Reilly, “ Building Concerns: Lumber Shortage a ‘Strange Disaster’ amid COVID-19,” Tribune-Dem ocrat, August 8,
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

Other businesses, such as sawmil s, saw increased profits.48 Some expressed concern that supply
shocks, such as the impacts of wildfires and Hurricane Laura, would cause prices to increase
further.49 Members of the construction industry and Members of Congress expressed concern that
increased construction prices would impact homebuyers and construction businesses, and they
asked the Trump Administration to promote greater lumber production and resolve a softwood
lumber trade dispute with Canada.50 The National Association of Home Builders estimated that,
in August 2020, the average price of a new single-family home was $16,000 higher than in April
2020 due to the increase in softwood lumber prices. 51
Lumber prices fel sharply in October 2020, sometimes by over 25% a week.52 The decrease in
prices is likely due to many factors, such as the typical seasonality in lumber demand (due to the
end of construction season in some regions), increased processing capacity, and others. However,
prices remained higher compared with the same period in 2019—for example, in late October
2020, the price of some lumber was stil nearly 67% higher than the same time in 2019.53
Paper Products
Wood is the primary raw material for paper products, such as cardboard and bath tissue. During
the pandemic, demand for paper products used in offices, schools, restaurants, and other public
places has decreased, whereas demand for products used in residential settings has increased. As a
result, the pandemic has had differential and offsetting impacts across the pulp and paper sector,
sometimes within industries or geographic regions.54 For example, despite widely publicized
shortages in bath tissue and other personal-use paper products in early 2020, the increased
household demand for these products has been countered by decreased demand in schools,
offices, and other public places.55 Similarly, demand for paper packaging materials for shipping to

48 Wood Resources International, “Lumber Companies in the U.S. Reached Record Profits T hanks to High Lumber
Prices and Declining Sawlog Costs,” Cision PR Newswire, September 30, 2020.
49 Forestry Economic Advisers, “After Hitting Record Levels, Production Disruptions from Hurricane Laura Are Likely
to Drive Lumber Prices Even Higher,” news release, September 10, 2020. Hurricane Laura impacted over 757,000
acres of timber in Louisiana, and it also affected Alabama, Mississippi, and T exas. Bruce Schultz, “AgCenter Estimates
Ag, Forestry Losses from Hurricane Laura Exceed $1.6 Billion,” Louisiana State University AgCenter, September 15,
2020. For information on wildfire, see CRS In Focus IF10244, Wildfire Statistics, by Katie Hoover and Laura A.
50 Letter from Representatives Norma T orres et al. to Donald J. T rump , President, October 20, 2020; and Letter from
Gerald M. Howard, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Home Builders Association, to Donald J.
T rump, President, August 7, 2020.
51 National Association of Home Builders, “ Average New Home Price Now $16,000 Higher Due to Lumber,”
NAHBNow, August 28, 2020.
52 John Greene, “ Lumber Prices Continue to Freefall,” Forest2Market Blog, October 22, 2020; and Keta Kosman,
“Softwood Lumber Prices Increase by Smaller Amounts as Demand Slows,” Madison’s Lumber Reporter, September
9, 2020.
53 Keta Kosman, “ Softwood Lumber Prices Stabilize as Demand Remains Strong,” Madison’s Lumber Reporter,
November 3, 2020.
54 For example, two Wisconsin paper plants producing glossy paper (primarily used for print advertising, magazines,
and similar products) announced they would close in 2020 due to declining demand and the high cost of retrofitting the
plants. Carey Biron, “Paper Cuts: U.S. Coronavirus Downturn Hits T imber-Reliant T owns,” Reuters, September 23,
2002. However, demand for bath tissue from other Wisconsin mills doubled, leading mills and distribution centers to
operate at 120% of their normal capacity. Rick Barrett, “Demand for T oilet Paper is Rising, and Wisconsin’s $13
Billion Paper Industry Could T hrive,” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, March 18, 2020.
55 Jen Weiczner, “T he Case of the Missing T oilet Paper: How the Coronavirus Exposed U.S. Supply Chain Flaws,”
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

homes has increased, whereas demand for these materials from restaurants and hotels has
decreased.56 Some sectors that primarily supply offices and schools (e.g., printing and writing
paper) have reported decreased demand in 2020.57 Overal , producers of pulp, paper, and related
products reported improvements in the average prices they received as 2020 progressed: in
January 2020, prices were 2% lower than in January 2019, whereas in October 2020, they were
2% higher than in October 2019.58 In general, prices throughout the year were fairly similar to
prices in 2019.
Industry analytics firm Fastmarkets RISI reported that 43 pulp- and paper-related facilities in the
United States curtailed production temporarily or permanently closed between March and
September 2020 due to COVID-19.59 According to the Industrial Resources Council, there are
430 pulp and paper mil s in the United States, although it is unclear what year this statistic
reflects or whether it and the Fastmarkets RISI data include the same types of facilities.60 Some of
these events may be directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as measures to prevent or
forestal outbreaks.61 In other cases, these curtailments and closures have occurred in response to
changing market conditions, some of which predated the pandemic and were accelerated by
changes to consumer behavior related to the pandemic.62
COVID-19 and Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands
Timber harvesting takes place on federal lands managed by the Forest Service (FS), within the
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), within
the Department of the Interior). These agencies are broadly authorized to sel federal timber under
their multiple-use authorities.63 FS and BLM general y authorize timber harvesting through a
timber sale, wherein an interested party (timber purchaser) bids on a contract to harvest specified
timber (such as a given species in a given location) over a contract term, which is general y 3
years, with a maximum term of 10 years for FS timber.64 Most timber harvested on federal lands
is from FS lands.

Fortune, May 18, 2020, and Sharon T erlep, “ T oilet Paper Giant Pivots from Scratchy Office Rolls to Batt le Home
Shortages,” Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2020.
56 Brenna Butler, Cardboard Box & Container Manufacturing in the U.S., IBISWorld, U.S. Industry (NAICS) Report
32221, October 2020.
57 For example, see American Forest and Paper Association, “American Forest & Paper Association Releases
September 2020 Printing-Writing Monthly Report,” press release, October 16, 2020.
58 CRS calculation from BLS, PPI Commodity Data for pulp, paper and allied products, “Pulp, Paper, and Allied
products,” not seasonally adjusted, accessed November 24, 2020, previously updated November 13, 2020.
59 Fastmarkets RISI, “ COVID-19-Related North American Pulp and Paper Mill Shuts, March-September 2020,”
accessed November 3, 2020. Fastmarkets RISI specified that companies were “ listed for downtime, either novel
coronavirus or market -related or maintenance if deemed relevant, or for indefinite or permanent shutdowns, announced
since early March.” Reported downtime was based on publicly reported announcements by companies and information
reported to the organization’s editors. Fastmarkets RISI estimates that COVID-19-related mill downtime throughout
North America represents 2.684 million short tons of production.
60 Industrial Resource Council, “Pulp and Paper Manufacturing: Industry Snapshot,” accessed November 25, 2020.
61 For example, see Nicole Bales, “Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill Discloses Virus Case,” Astorian, July 10, 2020.
62 For example, Bruce Ferrin, “Layoffs Loom as Rumford Mill Expands into Packaging Grades,” Sun Journal, October
30, 2020; Peter Kendall, “A Warning from Wisconsin,” Washington Post, July 30, 2020.
63 16 U.S.C. §475, 30 U.S.C. §601. For more information, see CRS Report R45688, Timber Harvesting on Federal
, by Anne A. Riddle.
64 16 U.S.C. §472a(c). Bureau of Land Management timber contracts must be completed in three years, unless extended
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Forest Service Timber Contract Flexibilities
The USDA has the authority to modify timber contracts to provide relief to purchasers if adverse
timber market conditions develop. The Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) may extend the length
of timber sale contracts if the Secretary finds that a “substantial overriding public interest” (SOPI
) justifies the extension.65 In addition, if specific “adverse wood products market
conditions” develop, defined as a specified percentage decrease over two or more consecutive
quarters in the Producer Price Indexes for hardwood lumber, softwood lumber, and wood chips,
this constitutes an automatic SOPI finding. Under these conditions, the FS can issue a market-
related contract term addition (MRCTA) to an affected timber sale contract.66 MRCTAs are a
subset of the Secretary’s authority to issue SOPI findings, which are more general and flexible
(e.g., can be issued for a variety of reasons or can respond to conditions occurring over time
scales shorter than two quarters). FS timber sale contracts can be extended longer than 10 years, if
the Secretary finds that doing so would al ow for better use of forest resources.
On April 15, 2020, the USDA issued a SOPI finding, announcing the FS would extend certain
timber contracts and permits due to a combination of factors affecting the timber market.67 The
announcement specified that a confluence of several factors, beginning in late 2019, has created
“unprecedented worldwide instability” in timber markets, citing factors such as the COVID-19
pandemic, tariffs on hardwood products exported to China, and others.68 In April 2020, the FS
found total hardwood export value had fal en by over 42%.69 Stakeholders reported that
hardwood mil s had closed, instituted layoffs, reduced production, and lost revenues and that
National Forest System hardwood timber sales were at risk of default.70
Under the SOPI finding, most contracts may be extended for a total of two years, including time
provided under other MRCTA or SOPI findings, either those made in the past or those made in
the future. Market conditions in Alaska have been particularly affected (e.g., due the region’s

at the timber purchaser’s written request. 43 C.F.R. §§5463.1, 5473.4.
65 16 U.S.C. §472a(c)
66 36 C.F.R. §223.52
67 FS, “Extension of Certain T imber Sale Contracts; Finding of Substantial Overriding Public Interest,” 85 Federal
20984-20987, April 15, 2020. This substantial overriding public interest (SOPI) finding is not applicable to all
timber sales. Sales where timber is in urgent need of removal (e.g., to mitigate wildfire risk) will not be extended. T he
SOPI does not apply to certain contracts called stewardship contracts, if they include timber harvesting but are
primarily for restoration services. For more information on stewardship contracting, see CRS In Focus IF11179,
Stewardship End Result Contracting: Forest Service and Bureau of Land Managem ent , by Anne A. Riddle.
68 Beginning in 2018, China responded to import tariffs instituted by the T rump Administration by placing a series of
retaliatory t ariffs on American wood products. T hese tariffs particularly influenced hardwood markets, due to the high
proportion of U.S. hardwood exported to China. In the first months of 2020, the United States and China signed the
first phase of a trade deal, under which China issued tariff exclusions for some (but not all) hardwood products,
beginning February 28, 2020. For a summary of tariffs, see International T rade Administration, Foreign Retaliation
Product Matrix
, November 13, 2020.
69 FS, “Extension of Certain T imber Sale Contracts; Finding of Substantial Overriding Public Interest,” 85 Federal
20984-20987, April 15, 2020.
70 Letter from Representatives Ann McLane Kuster et al. to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, and Robert
Lighthizer, U.S. T rade Representative, November 19, 2019; and FS, “ Extension of Certain Timber Sale Contracts;
Finding of Substantial Overriding Public Interest,” 85 Federal Register 20984-20987, April 15, 2020. For a summary
of affected products, see Foreign Agriculture Service, China Issues Tariff Exclusions on U.S. Hardwood Products,
CH2020-0020, February 28, 2020.
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reliance on foreign demand), so timber sale contracts in Alaska may be extended for up to three
As of November 13, 2020, the FS had granted extensions to 943 timber contracts under the April
15 SOPI finding. In addition, 505 timber contracts had been extended under MRCTA provisions.
It is unclear whether some sales had extensions under both provisions.
Federal Assistance to the Timber Industry
Congress has provided general assistance to U.S. businesses and employees, including those in
the timber industry. Some of the main federal assistance programs include the following:
Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans and Advances. Congress has
authorized several programs that provide loans or advances to eligible businesses
through the SBA. Certain eligible businesses (such as smal businesses, sole
proprietors, nonprofit organizations, and cooperatives) may apply for Economic
Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). The SBA is authorized to provide amounts of up
to $2 mil ion, but some have reported EIDLs are unofficial y capped at
$150,000.72 Eligible businesses also may apply for bridge loans of up to $25,000
and advances of $1,000 per employee, up to a maximum of $10,000.73
SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).74 Smal businesses, cooperatives,
nonprofits, sole proprietors, and self-employed individuals general y were
eligible for a PPP loan if they were in operation on February 15, 2020, and (1)
were eligible for the SBA’s 7(a) loan program or (2) had either (a) not more than
500 employees or, (b) if applicable, the SBA’s “size standard” in number of
employees for the industry in which they operate. The PPP was designed to help
businesses retain workers (maintain payroll) and make mortgage, rental, and
utility payments. Businesses general y received a two-year loan at a 1% interest
rate equal to 2.5 times average monthly payroll costs (capped at $10 mil ion), and
they could apply for al or part of the loan to be forgiven if they met certain job
retention and rehiring criteria. The deadline for PPP applications was August 8,
Enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI). Congress created several temporary
UI benefits in response to the pandemic, including providing an extra $600 in

71 For more information on stewardship contracting, see CRS In Focus IF11179, Stewardship End Result Contracting:
Forest Service and Bureau of Land Managem ent
, by Anne A. Riddle.
72 Darla Mercado, “Federal Business Disaster Loans Now Capped at $150,000 and Limited to Agriculture,” CNBC,
May 7, 2020.
73 For more information, see CRS Insight IN11232, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for COVID-19, by Bruce R.
Lindsay. On July 11, 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it had stopped accepting Emergency
Economic Injury Disaster Loans Advance Payment grant applications because the program had reached its
authorization limit of $20 billion in grants. See SBA, “ Jobs Act Supported More T han $12 Billion in SBA Lending to
Small Businesses in Just T hree Months,” at
74 For more information, see CRS Report R46284, COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy
, by Robert Jay Dilger, Bruce R. Lindsay, and Sean Lowry ; CRS Insight IN11324, CARES Act Assistance for
Em ployers and Em ployees—The Paycheck Protection Program , Em ployee Retention Tax Credit, and Unem ploym ent
Insurance Benefits: Overview (Part 1)
, coordinated by Molly F. Sherlock; and CRS Insight IN11341, SBA’s Paycheck
Protection Program (PPP) Loans and Self-Em ployed Individuals
, by Sean Lowry.
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

weekly benefits, expanding benefits to certain groups of unemployed workers
who usual y do not qualify for UI benefits, and providing an extra 13 weeks of
UI benefits.75 The extra $600 in benefits expired July 25, 2020, 76 with other
provisions scheduled to expire December 26, 2020.
Paid Leave and Sick Leave. If employees are unable to work for certain reasons
associated with COVID-19, private-sector employers with fewer than 500
employees are required to provide two weeks of paid leave. These employers are
also required to provide their employees an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded
family and medical leave to care for a child whose school or child care is closed
or unavailable.77 Employers can claim a payroll tax credit to offset the cost of
providing the required leave.78 These provisions apply through the end of 2020.
Tax Relief. Through the CARES Act, Congress enacted a number of provisions
providing tax relief for businesses. Congress authorized a refundable payroll tax
credit of 50% of qualified wages (up to $10,000) for employers subject to
closures or reduced revenues due to COVID-19.79 Congress also provided tax
relief through expanded net operating losses.80 Congress also authorized deferred
payment of the employer share of Social Security payroll taxes for employers and
self-employed individuals through the end of 2020,81 along with other business
tax relief provisions.82
Some timber industry sectors have used these programs. For example, a survey by the American
Logger’s Council found that 72% of respondents applied for federal assistance. Of those, 84%
applied for assistance with the PPP and 12% applied for assistance with the EIDL program.83 The
majority of respondents (92%) who applied for assistance were approved. It is unclear how many
businesses were polled or to what degree they represent the industry as a whole.

75 For more information, see CRS In Focus IF11475, Unemployment Insurance Provisions in the CARES Act, by
Katelin P. Isaacs and Julie M. Whittaker.
76 On August 8, 2020, President Donald T rump issued a memorandum that authorized Lost Wages Assistance (LWA)
grants to supplement the weekly benefits of certain eligible unemployment insurance (UI) claimants in participating
states. LWA grants were authorized in the amount of $300 a week in federal funds; if a state chose to contribute an
additional $100 a week in state funds, the total would be $400 a week. LWA grants are available through December
2020, but the program terminates earlier if certain conditions (related to funding or enactment of legislation) are met.
For more information, see CRS Insight IN11492, COVID-19: Supplem enting Unem ployment Insurance Benefits
(Federal Pandem ic Unem ployment Com pensation vs. Lost Wages Assistance)
, by Katelin P. Isaacs and Julie M.
77 For more information, see CRS In Focus IF11487, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act Leave Provisions,
by Sarah A. Donovan and Jon O. Shimabukuro .
78 For more information, see CRS Insight IN11243, Tax Credit for Paid Sick and Family Leave in the Families First
Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) (Updated)
, by Molly F. Sherlock.
79 CRS Insight IN11299, COVID-19: The Employee Retention Tax Credit, by Molly F. Sherlock.
80 CRS Insight IN11296, Tax Treatment of Net Operating Losses (NOLs) in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic
Security (CARES) Act
, by Jane G. Gravelle.
81 CRS Insight IN11260, COVID-19 Economic Stim ulus: Business Payroll Tax Cuts, by Molly F. Sherlock and Donald
J. Marples.
82 CRS Report R46279, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—Tax Relief for Individuals
and Businesses
, coordinated by Molly F. Sherlock.
83 American Loggers Council, “Results: Loggers COVID-19 Federal Assistance Survey,” June 16, 2020.
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

In addition to the federal programs above, the CARES Act provided $150 bil ion in direct
assistance to state governments, collectively known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which may
be used for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.84 Some states have used this funding to
assist sectors of the timber industry. For example, some states have used Coronavirus Relief Fund
monies to establish grant programs that assist forest landowners and timber-related businesses.85
States also have used Coronavirus Relief Fund money to assist businesses general y.
Options for Congress
Decreases in timber prices, mil closures, and other market disruptions have led some
stakeholders to conclude that additional assistance is needed to provide relief to the timber
industry.86 Should Congress wish to provide such assistance, it could take the form of additional
legislation, changes to the implementation of existing programs, or other measures. The
discussion below covers assistance proposed specifical y for the timber industry in relation to the
impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.87 Broad assistance to businesses or individuals, such as that
provided by the CARES Act, may be inclusive of the timber industry; such options are beyond
the scope of this report.
Congress also may decide that assistance specific to the timber industry is not warranted at this
time. For example, Congress may decide existing assistance is sufficient or the pandemic’s
impacts do not warrant industry-specific assistance. In general, Congress has declined to pass
legislation providing assistance specific to al sectors of the timber industry under other adverse
market situations. For example, in response to the economic downturn and housing market
collapse of 2008-2010, sectors of the timber industry experienced severe declines.88 Congress
provided certain flexibilities to purchasers of federal timber sale contracts (see “Timber
Harvesting on Federal Lands”) but did not provide other specific assistance to the timber industry.
In other situations, Congress has assisted some parts of the timber industry (such as forest
landowners) but not others.89

84 CRS Report R46298, The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act, Title V): Background and State and Local Data, by
Grant A. Driessen.
85 For example, the State of Alabama established a grant program for qualifying timber owners that sold timber
between March and July 2020, and the State of Vermont established a grant program for forest product businesses that
experienced economic harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alabama: “ Memorandum of Understanding Between
Alabama Department of Finance and the Alabama Forestry Commission for the Distribution of CARES Act
Coronavirus Relief Funds,” August 24, 2020; Vermont: Vermont Act 138, “ An Act Relating to Providing Financial
Relief Assistance to the Agricultural Community due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” enacted July 2,
2020. For more information on the Coronavirus Relief Fund, see CRS Report R46298, The Coronavirus Relief Fund
(CARES Act, Title V): Background and State and Local Data
, by Grant A. Driessen.
86 For example, see Edward Murphy, “Coronavirus and Papermaking Woes Bring T ough T imes to Maine’s Logging
Industry,” Portland Press Herald, July 20, 2020.
87 In the 116th Congress, bills have been introduced that would provide relief to parts of the timber industry under
adverse market conditions not directly related to COVID-19. For example, the Forest Recovery Act (S. 1687 and H.R.
1444) would modify the tax deduction for casualty losses to establish special rules for losses of uncut timber due to
natural disasters, theft, or other reasons.
88 See D. Hodges et al., “Recession Effects on the Forests and Forest Product Industries of the South,” Forest Products
, vol. 61, no. 8 (2012), pp. 614-624; and Charles Keegan et al., “ Impact of the Great Recession on the Forest
Products Industry in the Western United States,” in Moving from Status to Trends: Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)
Sym posium 2012
, ed. Randall Morin and Greg Liknes (FS, 2012).
89 For example, in P.L. 116-20, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019, Congress
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

Financial Assistance to the Timber Industry
Stakeholders have cal ed for Congress to pass legislation providing specific assistance to the
timber industry, and some such legislation has been introduced. In the 116th Congress, S. 4233
and H.R. 7690 would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) to make relief payments
to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that experienced specified economic losses and
would establish a permanent appropriation for any amounts necessary to make such payments.
Eligible businesses that saw a 10% or greater loss in gross revenue between January 1 and July
31, 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, would be eligible. Payments to eligible entities
would equal their gross revenue from January 1 to July 31, 2019.90 Eligible business would be
required to certify to the Secretary that the relief payment would be used only for operating
Stakeholders in the timber industry have proposed other legislative approaches. For example, the
American Loggers’ Council proposed that Congress authorize low-interest loans for timber
harvesting or hauling businesses’ operating expenses based on lost production or revenue.91 In
general, legislation authorizing loans, direct support, or other financial mechanisms can be
tailored as narrowly or broadly as Congress desires; for example, such legislation could specify
firm size, type of business, magnitude of economic impact, or other factors for eligibility, or it
could have broad eligibility criteria. Stakeholders also have proposed approaches that would
increase demand rather than directly support businesses; for example, the Hardwood Federation
proposed that Congress create tax credits for buildings using U.S.-grown wood, increase
government purchases of U.S.-grown wood, and fund wood research programs.92

delegated broad authority to the FS’s state and private forestry mission area to administer $12.0 million for expenses
related to specified hurricanes and wildfires; delegated broad authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
to administer $3.0 billion for expenses related to losses from natural disasters in 2018 and 2019, including for forest
restoration; and appropriated additional funds to existing forest restoration programs, among other actions.
90 Funding would remain available until September 30, 2021.
91 Letter from Daniel Dructor, Executive Vice President, American Loggers Council, to Congress, 2020.
92 Robert Dalheim, “Hardwood Industry Proposes COVID-19 Relief Policies to U.S. Senate,” Woodworking Network,
June 15, 2020. CRS has been unable to locate the original letter. T he 116 th Congress has introduced bills with
provisions related to increasing wood demand, such as the T rillion T rees Act, H.R. 5859, although such legislation
generally predates the COVID-19 pandemic.
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

Expansion of Programs Created Under the CARES Act
Under the CARES Act, Congress delegated broad authority to the USDA to administer $9.5
bil ion in support of agricultural producers affected by COVID-19, which the USDA did through
successive rounds of funding through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).93
Commercial timber harvesting or hauling are not eligible for this funding. In the August 2020
round of CFAP funding, the USDA specified that those requesting assistance for timber and
pulpwood did not provide sufficient data for the agency to determine eligibility; therefore, the
USDA determined timber was not eligible for CFAP funding.94 In September, a group of six
Senators requested the USDA immediately make this funding available to timber harvesters and
haulers.95 These Senators and other stakeholders asserted that USDA precedent al ows timber
harvesting and hauling to be considered an “agricultural commodity” and therefore eligible for
the relief provided in the CARES Act.96 However, it is not clear whether the definition of timber
as an agricultural commodity is the reason it was excluded from CFAP funding, as other
commodities also have been deemed ineligible due to lack of information, failure to meet
eligibility criteria (e.g., not experiencing the required decline in prices), or other reasons.97
Congress could clarify that timber should be included or excluded in any successive rounds of
CFAP funding through amendments to the CARES Act, other legislative action, or other means.
Timber Harvesting on Federal Lands
In the past, Congress has acted to relieve federal timber purchasers under adverse market
conditions. For example, in relation to the 2008 housing market downturn, some sectors of the
U.S. timber industry experienced historic declines. In addition to a USDA-issued SOPI finding
that authorized timber sale contract extensions, in the 2008 farm bil , Congress authorized
additional timber sale contract flexibilities, such as contract value recalculations to reflect
changing timber prices, contract buyouts, and adjustment of required periodic payments for
qualified contracts.98 Such flexibilities were intended to assist federal timber purchasers if they
experienced chal enging market conditions.99 Congress may consider similar actions as a model if
federal timber purchasers experience hardships related to COVID-19.

93 For more information, see CRS Report R46395, USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program: Round One
, by Randy Schnepf.
94 USDA, “Notification of Funding Availability; Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Additional Eligible
Commodities,” 85 Federal Register 49589, August 14, 2020.
95 Letter from Senators Susan Collins et al. to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, September 18, 2020.
96 In the letter from Senators Susan Collins et al. to Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, September 18, 2020, th e
Senators stated that “USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants define ‘agricultural producer’ as ‘an individual or entity
that produces as Agricultural Commodity [including timber and forestry products] through participation in the day -to-
day labor, management , and field operations; or has the legal right to harvest an Agricultural Commodity,’ providing
precedent for timber harvesting and hauling to be considered ‘agricultural commodities.’” T he American Logger’s
Council cites 7 U.S.C. §1518, which includes “ timber and forests” in the definition of “ agricultural commodity” for 7
U.S.C. Chapter 36 (Crop Insurance).
97 USDA, “Notification of Funding Availability; Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Additional Eligible
Commodities,” 85 Federal Register 49589, August 14, 2020.
98 P.L. 110-246 §§8401 et seq.
99 For example, see explanatory material at FS, “Extension of Certain T imber Sale: Contracts; Finding of Substantial
Overriding Public Interest,” 85 Federal Register 20984, April 15, 2020, and FS, “ Extension of Certain T imber Sale
Contracts; Finding of Substantial Overriding Public Interest,” 77 Federal Register 65169, October 25, 2012.
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COVID-19 and the U.S. Timber Industry

Author Information

Anne A. Riddle

Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should n ot be relied upon for purposes other
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connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not
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Congressional Research Service
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