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:: Home > The People > Timber and Lumber Exports > Hot Topic: Exporting

The Controversy of Exporting Wood Products

What is the heart of the controversy about exports? Like other resource management issues, it is quite complex.

Exporting wood pests.

When logs and untreated wood products are sent outside their native range, the wood can serve as a vehicle for tree pests and diseases. These pests and diseases travel to other regions of the world, where native plants then play host to them.

Wood imported from foreign locations has brought pests and disease to the United States, but our exporting such problems is less a public issue. However, careless exportation of Oregon wood products can certainly send pests and disease to other locations in the same way.

This Douglas-fir branch suffers from a leaf-killing fungus called Swiss needle cast. Swiss needle cast is native to forests of the northern Pacific coastline— so why is "Swiss" in the name? The disease got its name once foresters in Switzerland diagnosed the problem in young Douglas-fir plantations.

The Swiss not only imported Douglas-fir seedlings in an effort to start plantation forests— they imported a tree disease too!

Increasingly strict rules on importing and exporting logs and untreated wood products certainly help mitigate these situations.

Which wood products should we export?

The four major categories of export products, listed in order of importance, are logs, lumber, plywood, and wood chips. Some say that, by exporting wood products, we are essentially exporting jobs. For instance, when a sheet of plywood is exported, then a domestic mill to process that plywood into furniture isn't needed. Perhaps more significantly, when a log (the least processed of all wood products) is exported, then no local mill of any kind is involved in secondary processing.

There are always at least two sides to any issue. Export advocates point out that exporting wood products means shipping and handling work. Also, a country that imports raw logs may not be interested in the milled products U.S. mills might export, so exporting timber and other basic wood products may be better than exporting nothing at all!

Value-added wood processing (secondary processing where a higher-valued product is milled), followed by selling the value-added products in a lucrative market (like the export market), would be the best of both worlds. In some cases this occurs. In others, it doesn't.

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