A study by the University of Maine found that one-third of responding companies said their ability to sell or harvest wood had decreased over the prior five years, although 39% said nothing had changed and 28% felt their ability had increased.
The cost of doing business has risen in the forest industry over the past few years, and numerous other economic factors aren’t making it easier for logging and trucking firms to maximize production, according to a new report from the University of Maine.
When asked what production factors weighed most heavily on their ability to maximize production, inflation and business costs were most frequently mentioned by firms, with 67% of responding logging firms saying they saw their business costs rise between 21% and 40% in the two years following September 2020. Costs rose over 50% for 16% of firms. Mill closures, market prices and access to qualified labor follow closely behind.
The analysis, funded by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, was conducted by a UMaine professor and a research associate and published in February. The researchers analyzed the survey responses provided in fall 2022 by just under half of member companies of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, which funded the research.
One-third of responding companies found that their ability to sell or harvest wood had decreased over the prior five years, although 39% said nothing had changed and 28% felt their ability had increased. A large majority — 78% — of firms responded that there are “sufficient markets for the wood that they harvest.”
“This study demonstrates the immense impact logging and forest trucking has on the Maine economy and highlights its importance as the foundation of the state’s entire $8.1 billion forest products industry,” said Dana Doran, the executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, in a news release. “It also shows an industry in crisis and reveals what Maine stands to lose if the challenges threatening logging are not overcome.”
Researchers also reviewed quarterly employment and wage figures to find that between 2014 and 2021, Maine saw a 15% decline in total logging industry jobs.
“It should be emphasized that 2021 was a unique year, with much of the world and the industry still rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically altered supply chains, and the eruption of the Pixelle Specialty Solutions paper digester,” the report noted, referring to the April 2020 explosion in Jay that destroyed a digester and ruined another but resulted in no deaths.
At least one firm in every county — except Sagadahoc County — responded to the survey, although Aroostook County appeared to have the most responding firms, according to a color-coded chart that accompanied the survey.