Recent press releases indicate Canadian forest industry and government representatives are planning a campaign blitz in the U.S. intended to convince American politicians, consumers and lumber buyers that they need Canadian lumber to keep their housing industry flourishing.
If the last blitz in the 1990s is any indication the delegation expenses will be considerable since it was estimated that industry spent over $40 million including undocumented public expenditures.
No doubt Canadians will try to convince the Americans that our lumber exports will be considerably less in the future once our lumber producers are faced with a declining log supply due to the pine beetle impacts.
Time will tell what tariffs will result but so far all indications are that the new president will be wanting anything that benefits the U.S. industry at any level.
We may be better off spending some of the campaign funds in developing value added industries that might be excluded from paying tariffs.
The Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) between the U.S. and Canada signed in 2006 is a lengthy document describing which wood products have tariffs applied.
There are over 100 lumber products subjected to tariffs but in general these include dimension lumber (rough or planed), flooring and siding.
The wood products that are exempt from tariffs are trusses (assembled), truss kits, I Joist beams, garage doors, complete door and window frames and house kits.
If Canadian lumber is shipped to the U.S. and trusses are assembled there, the lumber is taxed, but if the same lumber is used to make the truss in Canada the lumber is exempt.
One of the problems is getting the assembled products to the building contractors on a timely basis.
A better alternative is to ship complete house kits which are also exempt and have been designed, constructed and delivered on a timely basis south of the border.
There are many examples of value added business for natural resources but one in particular is a Finnish-based company which produces very efficient wood burning fireplaces that in my opinion are the epitome of adding value to a raw product.
Potential customers are provided with a wide variety of models with prices ranging from $6,000 to $20,000 for the basic models and up to $100,000 for the customized models.
No products are shipped to Canada without a substantial down payment and the construction takes place on site by a certified contractor.
Contrast this to the selling of raw logs to companies outside of Canada who add the value and the associated jobs.
Canada and B.C. in particular have some very unique wood products including Douglas fir, red and yellow cedar and a variety of pine species including a unique product produced from beetle killed pine.
We have some very experienced log home builders and timber frame companies that work on much the same principle as the Finnish company by building custom prefabricated structures here and reassembling on site.
Maybe it is time to start moving aggressively into the prefabrication of dimension lumber house construction.
With the impending log shortage it is time for all levels of government to stop exporting any raw materials that could be used to create Canadian jobs.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.