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Governor’s Address: Affordable softwood lumber prices are needed now more than ever

After the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the families who have to rebuild their lives need affordably priced lumber.

Dear Maine Taxpayer,

Unfortunately, corporate greed from a coalition of big lumber companies has already sent those prices skyrocketing. Making a profit is the goal of any company—and it should be.

But it is unconscionable that this coalition is in a position that could lead to price-gouging Americans in distress.

The issue is tariffs levied on Canadian softwood. The coalition is holding the U.S. Department of Commerce hostage, trying to slap a tariff on softwood exports to the United States from New Brunswick. But New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada and Quebec border mills have been exempt from the tariff for over three decades.

It is understandable that lumber companies in the Western U.S. would favor these tariffs. They need to even the playing field against big companies from provinces such as British Columbia, which dumps cheap, government-subsidized lumber into the U.S. market.

However, the smaller companies in New Brunswick produce less than 2% of the Canadian softwood market. Their prices are already similar to Maine’s prices, so the tariff is not necessary.

Our cross-border commerce is intertwined with our Canadian neighbors. Our lumber trade flows back and forth between Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick. Some Maine companies own mills and forest land on both sides of the border. We are already seeing job losses as companies try to avoid the tariffs.

The Department of Commerce is sympathetic to our position that New Brunswick should be exempt from tariffs. But the coalition’s aggressive posture will only drive up softwood prices for the American people in their time of need. It will continue to eliminate good-paying jobs for workers in Maine and Eastern Canada.

That’s why I am calling for a suspension of all tariffs until rebuilding efforts are complete. We should not allow corporate greed from big lumber companies to kick these good people while they are down.

Coalition businesses that could benefit unfairly from the hurricanes include: U.S. Lumber; Collum’s Lumber Products; Potlatch Corporation; Rex Lumber Company; Seneca Sawmill Company; Stimson Lumber Company; and Weyehaeuser Company.

I am urging the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers to tell the coalition to exempt New Brunswick from the tariffs. Now is not the time for corporate greed—it is time to do the right thing for the American people.

Thank You,

Paul R. LePage


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