Monday, August 22, 2016

Small-time loggers struggle to keep up with changes in technology, rising costs

Technology and global trade has remade the logging industry, forcing many small operations to go deep into debt to keep up, Sarah Schweitzer reports for The Boston Globe. Schweitzer details the struggles of Vermont logger Dave Goodhouse to keep his business running while facing competition from larger companies and from countries such as Brazil, Canada and Russia. Goodhouse, 53, has been logging since he was 19. (Globe photo by Jessica Rinaldi: Dave Goodhouse looks at a tree that’s been tagged to be cut in Reading, Vt.)

The biggest hardships are expenses, with fuel costs rising 400 percent in the last decade, labor costs increasing 67 percent, equipment costs up 112 percent and trucking costs rising 41 percent, Schweitzer writes. "Meanwhile, money earned from cut wood had risen just 37.5 percent."

A job that could once be done with tools such as a chainsaw and a skidder now needs constant upgrades and upkeep of more efficient equipment to increase productivity, Schweitzer writes. But that means increased costs, which is tough for someone like Goodhouse, who is already "on the hook for $1.2 million for his trucks and heavy equipment" and has bank loan repayments of $15,000 per month, 40 percent of what he brings in.

Add in continued upkeep on current equipment, such as the $400,000 it would cost to replace a forwarder that's close to breaking down and Goodhouse would need to increase productivity to make bank payments, Schweitzer writes. Another problem is that he has no legacy, with his only child choosing to go into another field, telling him, “I’ve watched you suffer and I don’t want to suffer like that." (Read more)

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