WASHINGTON - Sponsors of the proposed Hardwood Checkoff have submitted revisions that would limit the scope of eligible products while including export sales and yellow poplar into program.

In a letter to the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, the Hardwood Checkoff Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) stated, "We have noted a need for the following amendments which would not materially change the direction of the program if finalized and will reduce rather than expand those eligible for the program."

To start, the BRC said it was never its intention to exclude export sales, but rather to include them along with domestic sales under the checkoff assessments. It also asked that yellow poplar be added into the definition of "Hardwood Lumber" Section 1211.12.

Item #3 on BRC's list of changes calls for the removal of "all industrial lumber and lumber products from eligibility." This would limit the program's scope to "non-industrial grade lumber, a limited number of value-added products and hardwood plywood."

Finally, the group also looks to remove the paperwork obligation for the yearly opt-out requirement by small manufacturers. "Rather than a system that requires small manufacturers to opt out of the assessment, they should only have a paperwork obligation when they must opt in. By that we mean that if an exemption no longer applies to a small manufacturer, that manufacturer has the obligation to inform the board or USDA. Until then, there is no paperwork requirement, except for the initial filing that establishes the exemption."

The BRC submitted the changes for the proposed Hardwood Checkoff Program following the conclusion of the formal comment period. Comments were submitted by 950 wood industry stakeholders by the Feb. 18 deadline.

Checkoff programs are collective marketing efforts funded by the product producers and run by an industry-governed board; coordinated through the USDA. 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.

The Hardwood Checkoff program has been in development for approximately three years. For information on the program visit HardwoodCheckoff.com.

 

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