Impending U.S. duties having ripple effect here

As the U.S. government ponders a recommendation from the Department of Commerce to impose a 19.3 percent duty on Canadian softwood lumber the impending decision is beginning to have a ripple effect here.
As area sawmills’, including Manitou Forest Products, Nickel Lake Lumber and Atikokan Forest Products, wait for the October 23 decision by the U.S. government, softwood lumber production has slowed to a crawl, affecting harvesting, production and shipping as seen first-hand by local trucking operator Doug Kitowski.
“I know of a company today that would ship about 100 loads a day that didn’t have any today,” said Kitowski. “It’s not going to be very good I’ll tell you that right now.”
For Kitowski, who ships softwood to the U.S for the three Rainy River District mills and many others including the Weyerhaeuser mill in Dryden, the prospects are uncertain.
Although the decision hasn’t been made, mill managers are slowing, even halting production because the suggestion from the U.S. Department of Commerce was that the duty be retro-active to May of 2001, forcing companies to pay the duty on previously shipped softwood.
For Kitowski, who hauls 80 percent of his shipments to U.S. markets, the future of the industry is up in the air.
“I don’t know where it’s going between now and then, I don’t really know what’s going to happen,” said Kitowski. “Maybe they won’t have enough [in the U.S.] and they’ll pay for it or maybe we won’t sell it there any more.
“You end up doing other things, going all over the country to places I don’t usually go to.
“If you stop harvesting lumber there’s going to be a lot of unemployment,” Kitowski added. “We started this nonsense in 1986 and about every four years we go through it again and get worried.”
The Canadian government, along with Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Bob Runciman, the Ontario Forest Industries Association and the U.S. Coalition for Affordable Housing, among other groups are lobbying the U.S. federal government to turn down the Department of Commerce proposal.
Meanwhile, trucks at Doug Kitowski trucking, which hauls approximately 150 softwood loads a month to the U.S., may begin to park trucks as production plummets here.
“I very well could, and employees naturally,” said Kitowski. “But it’s one of those things, what can you do.
“It’s not good for the area, that’s for sure,” he added.