Loggers and log haulers are included in a new $6 billion effort to reach a broader set of agricultural producers than COVID-19 relief programs implemented last year, said U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Sec. Tom Vilsack in late March. Vilsack’s statement introduced a new initiative—USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers—that is currently developing rules for new programs that put more emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, and to also include specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel.
As part of the larger COVID Relief Act signed in December 2020, $200 million was set aside as relief for loggers and log haulers who lost revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. American Loggers Council Executive Vice President Danny Dructor said he and members of the ALC Logger and Log Hauler Relief Advocacy Committee had met with USDA economists and provided financial and survey data and shared key factors that need to be covered in any compensation formula. He added that the logger relief program “has their attention and they’re working on it.” One challenge, Dructor added, is helping USDA officials understand how loggers and log haulers have roles as commodity producers, then designing a COVID compensation plan for agricultural businesses that aren’t traditional row-crop producers.
Some existing programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will fall within the new initiative, Vilsack said, and where authority allows, will be refined to better address the needs of smaller producers. He added that a review of previous COVID-19 assistance programs targeting farmers identified a number of gaps and disparities in how assistance was distributed as well as inadequate outreach to underserved producers and smaller and medium operations. Vilsack’s statement was part of a wide-ranging press release detailing a four-part process for the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers that includes developing new programs and bolstering existing ones and the USDA’s overall goals for COVID relief legislation.
ALC is a primary contact for USDA concerning the program, and ALC urges loggers to sign up for the ALC newsletter and USDA updates at the ALC website, amloggers.com.