For Jim Robbins, who runs a white pine sawmill in Searsmont with his siblings, that’s a worrying prospect.
“That’s one of the things that keeps me up at night,” he said.
Robbins Lumber hasn’t shut down early due to a lack of raw fiber, he said, but he’s heard about it happening to others.
“We grow trees really well in the state of Maine,” Robbins said. “But you have to have the people to go out and cut that wood and bring it to the mills. You can have a great lumber mill. But you’re not going to have a great lumbermill if you don’t have the loggers out there to bring that wood to the mills.”
Robbins said he tries to sell diesel directly to loggers to cover their trucking costs. And he’s paying more now for the logs and fiber that his independent contractors bring to his mill, he said.
But operating costs for labor, parts and diesel have gone up for his business as well.
He’s hopeful that Maine’s industry is poised for the arrival of new forest products in the coming years, such as wood fiber insulation, which Robbins said should create a greater demand for pulpwood.
“By doing that you’re going to increase the bottom line of money coming back into the logging business, and hopefully that will make it more attractive for people to stay in the logging business,” he said.
Efforts are underway now to make those products in Maine, but they’re not quite ready for mass production.
If they do take off some of the loggers who are scaling back now say they want to stay ready to ramp up again in the future…