WASHINGTON - The USDA is once again seeking public comments on the proposed Hardwood Checkoff program following seven editorial amendments made to the proposal. Similar to program such as "Got Milk," "Beef, It's What's for Dinner" and "Pork, the Other White Meat," the hardwood checkoff program would be a collective marketing effort funded by the lumber producers and run by an industry-governed board; coordinated through the USDA.
Persons interested have until July 9 to submit comments on the proposed Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research and Information Order (79 FR 68298). They can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov.
Published in the Federal Register in November 2013, and revised in the spring of 2014, the proposed Hardwood Checkoff program has received its share of controversy, with industry groups taking sides on the proposal. These latest amendments are based on feedback from the 950 comments received last year. The Federal Register listing of the amendments includes:
• "Substitute the term 'manufactured' for the term 'produced' and omit the phrase 'within the United States'" to clarify that "the Board's review is on covered hardwood manufactured, and that the review is not limited to sales within the United States."
• Clarify the eligibility requirements by changing the phrase: “nominees must have annual sales of more than $2 million of covered hardwood lumber or have annual sales of more than $10 million of hardwood plywood per fiscal year” to “nominees must have annual sales of $2 million or more of hardwood lumber, hardwood products, and hardwood value-added products, or have annual sales of $10 million or more of hardwood plywood per fiscal year.”
• A similar clarification of the exemption thresholds to: “Hardwood lumber manufacturers who received an exemption certificate from the Board but have annual sales of $2 million or more or hardwood plywood manufacturers that have annual sales of $10 million or more during the fiscal year.”
• Adding the abbreviation "KD" to the term kiln dried to clarify the abbreviation.
Under the Hardwood Checkoff proposal, as posted in the Federal Register, funding for the program would come from sawmills producers and kiln operating facilities with annual sales in excess of $2 million. These companies would be required to pay $1 per $1,000 on sales on the raw product. Value-added – though still considered unfinished – products, such as unfinished strip flooring, mouldings, dimensioned components, S4S, etc., will also be subject to a checkoff fee, but at a reduced rate of $0.75 per $1,000 in sales. Hardwood plywood mills with annual sales in excess of $10 million would pay $3 per 1,000 square feet of production; companies would be given a “credit” for lumber purchases, which is deducted from their fee.
If the proposal passes, it would be the second checkoff in the woodworking industry, and the first for hardwood; passed in 2011, the softwood industry's Softwood Lumber Board promotes the usage and benefits of softwood lumber products in outdoor, residential and non-residential construction.