CATSKILL — An official with B&B Forest Products of Cairo appeared before the Greene County Legislature on Wednesday and sharply criticized China’s trade tariffs, which have adversely affected the local business.
Jennifer DeFrancesco, export manager for B&B, described the hardship the new taxes have imposed on her family’s business.
B&B, located on state Route 145, has been in business for 25 years specializing in hardwoods. China imposed a 10 percent tariff on U.S. imports in August, and an additional 15 percent increase is expected Jan. 6.
“We exported 33 million feet of wood or 8,250 loads last year,” DeFrancesco said. “This year we did 21 million feet, or 12 million feet less.”
B&B has 32 employees on-site and employs approximately 300 more indirectly for trucking and other services, DeFrancesco said.
“New York is third in the nation for logging exports and my business is one of the top exporters of hardwoods in the nation,” she said. “Forestry makes up $23 billion of New York’s economy.”
“Aren’t they hurting their own industry?” Legislator Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
“Oh, absolutely,” DeFrancesco said. “Because of our seasons in New York, we have tight growth rings. They can’t replace our wood.”
In addition to the tax, China is also adding environmental regulations to U.S. imports such as debarking and fumigation. The equipment for these processes is costly, DeFrancesco said.
“Debarking equipment is $500,000 and for fumigation it is into the millions,” she said.
Debarking is also a time-consuming process. “It takes us three times as long,” DeFrancesco said.
The fumigation process involves hazardous chemicals that are totally unprecedented for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, DeFrancesco said.
“There’s an application online, but no one has ever used it before, she said.
“It seems like there is a lot of uncertainty,” Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, said.
Once B&B goes through the process of installing the fumigation equipment, it would be the only wood-product exporter north of New Jersey to have that kind of technology.
“Most companies take a slow-down in business and don’t buy the debarker,” DeFrancesco said.
U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, had drafted some legislation to implement safer chemicals in the fumigation process, DeFrancesco said.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden asked DeFrancesco to send a copy of the legislation to county lawmakers so they could continue pursuing the issue.
Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, wondered if a way around the tariff could be found.
“Could you import to Canada first and then China?” he said.
“I wish it were that easy,” DeFrancesco said.
One day after China’s announcement on April 27 to restrict log exports from the United States, the U.S. Forest Products Trade Coalition was formed.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets held its first Forestry and Wood Products Summit on Oct. 25 to discuss ways to help the forestry community, DeFrancesco said.
“I wanted to bring those ideas, and some of my own, to the county and see how they might be implemented,” she said.
In addition to the tariffs, logging companies and farmers have a new threat to worry about, DeFrancesco said.
“There’s a new invasive species called the spotted lantern fly that has been found in Suffolk County,” she said.
DeFrancesco called the lantern fly the worst pest farmers have encountered in 150 years.
“It will damage the fruit trees and grapes, which is of particular concern for New York wineries,” she said.