WASHINGTON — North Carolina Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr and Reps. G. K. Butterfield (D-1), David Rouzer (R-7), and Gregory Murphy (R-3) have sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the distribution of $200 million provided in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act for relief to the timber harvesting and hauling industry.

“While we were pleased to learn timber harvesting and hauling will be included in the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program, three months have already passed since the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act was signed into law,” the letter stated. “During those three months, many of our loggers and haulers continued to deal with the economic challenges created by the ongoing pandemic.

“Sadly, some have made the hard decision to cease operations. Any further delay in distributing relief dollars, will only push the industry further to the brink, threatening the survival of hundreds of logging and hauling businesses across North Carolina and the rural communities they support.”

The letter continued, “We urge you to use all available tools to provide relief for timber harvesters and haulers as expeditiously as possible. Should you identify any hurdles that impede your ability to distribute relief quickly, please let us know so that we may be of assistance in resolving them. Additionally, in reply to this letter, we respectfully request you include an expected timeline for the release of funds for timber harvesting and hauling relief.”

“Since the very outset of the pandemic, loggers in North Carolina and across America have been essential to keeping the U.S. economy going,” said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Carolina Loggers Association. “Putting their lives on the line every day, they supply the critical wood fiber needed to make toilet paper, masks, boxes, lumber, etc. that consumers use. With so many logging operations impacted by COVID, this funding is crucial to keep the economy moving forward.”

Ena Sellers may be reached at esellers@ncweeklies.com