Recently in wood industry news, it was announced that the Maine Forest Service was granted $380,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help in its efforts to establish a Wood Energy Assistance Team that will focus on biomass heating and other efforts following the significant price decline in softwood species and the sharp drop in demand for this type of wood.
The grant is part of an $8.5 million allocation from the USDA to boost the industry and expand technologies in wood related to power generation, commercial construction, and other innovations in wood products after the softwood species that were used in shuttered mills took a hit in recent years. Since the closing of the Madison mill this month, the demand for softwood pulp in Maine has decreased by about 2.1 million tons over the period beginning in early 2014. This equates to 192 truckloads of wood to put the volume in perspective.
Madison Paper Industries announced in March of this year that it would shut down this month, which would result in the loss of jobs for about 214 employees. A spokesman for the company said the mill is not cost-competitive and has lost substantial sales recently, while the demand for supercalendered papers had declined dramatically in 2015.
Other shuttered mills in the state that have experienced a price drop in softwood species include Great Northern Paper’s East Millinocket mill and Verso’s Bucksport mill. U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement while announcing the award from the USDA that, “At a time of severe challenges for the pulp and paper industry, we must work across all levels of government to leverage resources and build opportunities for the entire forest products sector.”
The grant will allow for the Maine Forest Service to focus on a program called the “Strengthening and Expanding Maine Wood Markets” project, according to reports which say a new job will be created for an individual at the forest service who will specialize in issues related to forest product markets.
In addition to paper products, softwood species such as pine, western red and yellow cedar, Douglas fir, and others are used in siding, flooring, roofing, building furniture, and other applications.
Hopefully the USDA’s award will help stem Maine’s paper products economic crisis.
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