(FRANKFORT , KY) — In advance of President Donald Trump’s visit to Lexington, the Kentucky hardwood industry has released information about the economic impact of tariffs in the ongoing trade battle with China.
Since tariffs on hardwood were imposed by the administration, exports are down more than 47 percent and the value of those exports was off more than $615 million, according to the Hardwood Federation, an industry group based in Washington. But the impacts are being felt much closer to home—throughout Central Appalachia, the so-called wood basket of the hardwood industry.
“The demise of coal is well documented throughout the region,” said Bob Bauer, executive director of the Kentucky Forest Industries Association. “Often overlooked in this economic discussion are forest industries, including the harvesting of hardwood for furniture, flooring, and myriad other uses. We’re being devastated by the tariffs in much the same manner as farmers have been throughout the grain belt.”
Kentucky’s forest industries employ more than 26,000 directly and create nearly 60,000 total jobs with an economic impact of more than $13 billion according to a research study by the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.
The report also showed that even before tariffs, medium grade log prices were on the decline. The tariffs only exacerbate the situation.
“We’re already fighting problems at home with competition from other flooring and
manufacturing materials,” said Steve Merrick, president of Somerset Hardwood Flooring. “As an industry, we have to face the competition head-on to survive, so we don’t need tariffs that drastically reduce our market.”
In many cases, logging, milling, trucking, and support services for the industry are located in rural areas of Kentucky—much of which is where the economy has already taken a beating with the decline of coal production. At risk with a continued downturn is a deep reduction in the workforce across all industry sectors.
“China is our largest market by far for hardwood exports,” said Bauer. “Vietnam is second—but it is only one-tenth as large. The prognosis is clear and bleak. Unless the sanctions are eased, these tariffs will devastate our industry and the communities our members support with direct and indirect economic contributions.”
KFIA is the association of the forest products industry, service providers and landowners that reside or conduct business in Kentucky. KFIA is a necessary investment of the forest resource stakeholder because of the robust services and benefits provided by the association. KFIA exists to preserve the traditions, markets and influence of all the organizations benefiting from Kentucky’s forest resources.