A coalition of U.S. lumber producers has accused the British Columbia government of implementing “abusive stumpage practices” that directly violate the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement.
At issue are changes to stumpage fees that the province implemented on June 1 that the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports said Friday are “in direct violation” of the agreement to the detriment of producers both in the U.S. and elsewhere in Canada.
Effective June 1, prices for many B.C. Interior timber stands on Crown land that are sold without competition will be based solely on the volume and quality of timber estimated by a “cruise” of the standing timber before harvest, the coalition said in a news release.
Until now, the B.C. government has required harvesters to scale or measure and grade timber after harvest in order to determine the payment due, the coalition said in a news release.
It cited B.C. government statistics showing that over the last two years more than 40 per cent of the B.C. Interior timber harvest has been graded “lumber reject” and therefore eligible for the minimum stumpage rate.
“However, most of this timber is, in fact, used to make lumber – meaning that B.C. is failing to properly implement the timber pricing system grandfathered in the SLA,” it said.
“As a result, B.C. lumber producers have the lowest cost timber in North America, giving them a significant unfair advantage over competitors in the United States and other parts of Canada during the catastrophic conditions for lumber producers over the last two years. The SLA prohibits this type of abuse.”
The coalition said the latest change means that, on the very timber stands that have been generating most of the misgraded, low-priced timber sales, B.C. will no longer require lumber producers to measure and grade the timber.
More changes are scheduled to take effect on July 1.
“The latest change to the government-run stumpage pricing system amounts to nothing less than a taxpayer resource give-away that violates the softwood lumber agreement,” said Steve Swanson, chairman of the coalition and president of the family-run Swanson Group in Oregon.
“The only beneficiaries appear to be a handful of B.C. lumber producers at the expense of everyone else.”
The U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports is an alliance of large and small lumber producers, their employees and tens of thousands of U.S. woodland owners.
Softwood Deal Not Breached: BC Minister – CBC News – June 4, 2010
Changes in British Columbia’s timber pricing rules violate the softwood lumber deal, a U.S. industry group charged Friday.
The changes will lock in a pricing system that has enabled B.C. producers to avoid implementing pricing rules in the Softwood Lumber Agreement, reached between Canada and the U.S. in 2006, the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports said in a news release.
But B.C. Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell rejects the claim. The province advised the U.S. Commerce Department, which administers the softwood deal, and it did not express any concerns, he said.
The B.C. changes do no violate the softwood deal, Bell said: “We are confident this would stand any test.”
The new B.C. rules are similar to U.S. lumber pricing rules, so the coalition’s complaint “is a bit ironic,” he added.
The coalition said the change will enable Interior lumber producers to continue to sell “misgraded” lumber for low prices, hurting other producers. It said the lumber should get a higher grade and require a higher payment to the government.
But Bell said the rule change is intended to encourage producers to reduce waste.
Source: CBC News – June 4, 2010