Understanding the Wood Supply Chain

graphic showing Woods to Mill flowchart

The Forest Resources Association (FRA) represents the businesses in the wood supply chain. The catch-all phrase that best describes our membership base is from the “woods to mill.” It is a catchy phrase that I have used hundreds of times when talking to Members of Congress, decision-makers, and even my own family in describing the role of FRA.

These three words are simple, memorable, and almost as catchy as that hit 90’s song the Macarena. Because I have mentioned it, I am sure many of you are dancing to that song mentally right now and probably will be for some time after you have completed reading this blog. I apologize for that.

These three simple words, “woods to mill,” are a great tagline that identifies FRA membership. However, these three words also represent a very complex supply chain. In this chain, if a link is removed, it affects the parts of the entirety, adding costs to fiber procurement or even worse the failure of a business.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed guidance that correctly recognized the paper industry and many other businesses as critical and their employees essential. Rightfully so, as paper products are used widely in the medical field and consumer demand for some paper products was high. I am sure we all experienced empty shelves when looking for toilet paper and paper towels.

As states began to implement their own guidelines that identified critical and essential businesses, it was clear that the links in the wood supply chain needed to make paper products were becoming undone. Some states allowed paper manufacturing while not allowing sawmills to operate. Other states allowed paper and sawmills to operate but failed to allow residential construction to continue. And even others allowed the sectors of paper, sawmills, and construction to operate, but failed to allow logging and foresters to work. Through the collective efforts of FRA, as well as other national and state forestry associations, the entire wood supply chain became recognized in most states as a critical business. The second version of the DHS guidance recognized the importance of the supply chain and included residential construction and biomass as critical and essential. Over this period, the FRA team engaged in discussions of how we could help people outside our business better understand the wood supply chain. After several discussions, we worked to develop a schematic that will help people understand and visualize the wood supply chain that is captured in those three simple words, “woods to mill.” The uses of this schematic are many, including to assist in discussions with policymakers, the orientation of new employees, briefing of customers, woods, and mill tours, and informing educators, just to mention a few.

We hope that you find this product useful in conveying the complexity of three simple words that capture our supply chain so efficiently, “woods to mill.”

“…Hey Macarena”

For a copy of the “Woods to Mill” schematic, click here.