In 2016, the United States exported $38 billion worth of forestry products, with $3.4 billion accounting for lumber. Data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service indicates that China is the largest consumer of American wood and wood products, with imports aggregating to $700 million in 2016. Of this amount, roughly two-thirds of imports consisted of lumber or other processed wood, and one-third consisted of logs.
Significant departments and programs exist within the Department of Commerce and Department of Agricultural Foreign Services to promote the use of lumber and wood products overseas, yet there is little understanding by these programs about the current oversupply of timber in the U.S., and near record low for stumpage fees.
Working With Government Agencies
The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) utilizes various programs that serve as effective opportunities to grow markets for timber. One example is the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), a program that specifically helps create, expand, and maintain long-term export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Preference for this program is given to organizations that represent an entire industry or are nationwide in membership and scope. From a funding perspective, the American Hardwood Export Council, The Engineered Wood Association, Softwood Export Council, and Southern Forest Products Association were collectively provided with $2,608,762 from the FMD.
Participating in Trade Missions
The Department of Commerce conducts trade missions and programs for firms that are interested in exploring export markets. These programs consist of outbound trade missions each year, along with reverse trade missions that bring foreign delegations to the U.S. These programs create an environment whereby firms can meet directly with potential clients in new markets. Examples of these programs include:
- U.S.-China Build Chinese Softwood Lumber Buyers’ Inbound Mission: The goal of this program is to foster a stronger understanding of U.S. softwood lumber, trades, and grading, as well as explore opportunities and create relationships with lumber importers and remanufacturers in China. This event will take place in Savannah, GA, and Portland, OR, from March 6th to March 11th.
- Japan Building Materials Trade Mission: The Department of Commerce works alongside the Foreign Agricultural Service and the Evergreen Building Products Association (EBPA) in order to host receptions and site visits that connect U.S. companies with Japanese importers of construction materials. More than 278 seminars featuring American suppliers have been held across Japan, resulting in approximately $220 million in sales.
- U.S.-China Build Lumber Mission: This trade mission connects American lumber suppliers with Chinese buyers through a series of group meetings, roundtable discussions with buyers, wholesale yard visits, and receptions with importers and manufacturers. Since 2009, this program has resulted in more than $4 billion worth of exports.
FLA will work with relevant federal agencies to:
- Improve U.S. market competitiveness for timber
- Communicate that private forests can deliver long-term resources to participate in expanded foreign markets for timber-related products
- Promote the sustainability of U.S. forests in foreign markets • Serve as a resource on foreign trade missions, discussions, and programs
- Ensure government programs benefit the source of the natural resource supplier – not just supply markets