Steve Swanson

Steve Swanson

Here in Glendale, we know lumber. It’s powered towns like ours across the Pacific Northwest for over 165 years. Like many businesses in small towns and communities throughout Oregon and Washington, we at the Swanson Group are a family-owned business in the business of supporting families — we’ve had as many as three generations of families employed at one time at our Glendale sawmill.

A consistent presence for us — besides the Swanson clan at the helm of the mill — has been our struggle against a trade system in which the deck is stacked against us.

For more than five decades, the Canadian government has given handouts to its softwood lumber industry, allowing them to dump their products in the U.S. below market prices and tipping the scale in their favor. In fact, the U.S. government carried out a comprehensive investigation and found the imports were harming local lumber communities in the U.S. In response, the U.S. levied anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports to offset Canada’s unfair trade advantage.

Don’t get us wrong. We welcome a good fight here in Glendale. We’ve made countless tough decisions during hard times and overcome economic challenges to be here today. But we can’t compete against foreign companies that receive subsidies from their own government.

The duties have given local family-owned businesses like ours a chance to compete fairly in the market. They’ve given us the confidence to continue providing good-paying jobs to our local communities, build state-of-the-art technologies and train skilled individuals to promote local economic growth. They allow more than 61,000 workers in Oregon’s forest sector to complete an honest day’s work to lead the country in lumber production and support more than 107,000 jobs in Washington.

Big D.C. associations representing U.S. homebuilders would have us believe these duties harm the U.S. economy. In search of cheap lumber, they are waging an all-out battle, with misinformation to try and keep lumber prices artificially low at the cost of a U.S. industry and U.S. jobs. These associations put the blame on lumber duties as the sole cause for material price and housing cost increases. This could not be further from the truth. At two percent of a cost of a new home, lumber is not the principal driver of the cost increase. At play here are very real and complex issues homebuilders face, like labor shortages, lot availability and transportations challenges.

Critics of the duties miss an important fact. These duties were a result of regular government action rooted in a long and fact-based investigation into the effects of subsidized and dumped Canadian softwood lumber imports into the U.S.

The softwood lumber duties bring balance to two different systems of production, thus giving U.S. workers and companies a fair shot to compete in the market. As for us in Glendale, we will continue to build on the legacy of the Pacific Northwest and continue to supply lumber that helps build homes and supports our nation’s economic growth.

Steve Swanson is president and chief executive officer of the Swanson Group, a family-owned forest products company operating lumber mills across the state of Oregon.

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