Frustration of a tree farmer

Dear Editor, I have been a tree farmer for over 50 years. I am approaching the age of 77 and I remember reading “Weekly Reader” as required reading when I was in the fifth grade. One of the frequent articles in the “Weekly” was about how good it was to plant trees and the amount of money you could make off thinning pulpwood and cutting of saw timber. It encouraged young people to be good conservationist like the President encouraged with the WPA and CCC programs, during the Great Depression.

I have never been so disappointed at anything I have ever done as to plant trees and lose four percent per year so the economic royalist can profit from the creation of the oversupply of trees resulting in cheap prices of trees and allowing great profits going to the saw and pulp mills. President Trump has made an effort to reduce “dumping” of timber and lumber from Canada into the United States in an effort to reduce the oversupply. As a result of the lobbying efforts of the mills, the tree farmer has been given more regulations and fines if we don’t plant trees. Many mills have sold off their tree farming lands because it is easier to pay lobbyist to force the private landowner to grow trees at a loss than to grow it themselves.

Once a landowner plants trees, it takes 40 years or more to grow merchantable timber. Some small amount of pulpwood may be cut after 20 to 25 years. A tree farmer can’t decide to get out of their tree crop after one year for they make a commitment for 40 years until the trees are mature. Most tree farmers will have one timber harvest in a lifetime and are not fully informed of what is happening to them.

The mills use buying techniques to lower the price. Some of these techniques include the mills buying the timber only through a network of buyers who “fix” the prices dictated by the mills. You might want to view the Netflix movie called “Rotten”, which describes how buyers in the food industry fix prices to reduce the grower and fisherman’s price. Some of the other techniques the wood industry has used are through a consolidation of their buying through “dealers” to reduce prices. These techniques have allowed the mills to buy at cheaper prices so they can make more money and control prices.

Tom Keith

Fayetteville, NC