Lake States Logging Business Assessment

Michigan State

Loggers and logging businesses are the backbone of the wood supply chain in the Lake States region of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  To understand the viability of that sector within the industry, various groups in those three states mail surveys to logging businesses and summarize the results every few years. 

The last surveys in the three states were conducted in 2017. Technical Releases from those surveys are available on the FRA website for MichiganMinnesota, or Wisconsin (website login required). At that time, it was reported that although the timber harvesters in the region have many similarities, they are also distinctly different. A common issue faced by the logging sector was the aging of business owners, with few younger businesses entering the profession. Another similarity in the region was that a few businesses supplied a large amount of the timber volume to consuming mills. While the smaller businesses are critical to meeting overall demand, they were more likely to exit the industry in the next five years.

Differences among logging businesses also were reported in the 2017 Lake States surveys. Some of these differences include the size of operation, harvest equipment or system used, stumpage sources, and the percentage of timber volume to be harvested which was purchased by someone else such as a broker or mill.

Much has changed since 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted markets and the availability of labor. Also, the Federal government provided financial relief to timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses that experienced losses in 2020 due to COVID-19, which may have helped some businesses stay afloat. In addition, carbon credits have become more popular, and logging business owners may have a perspective on the development of those markets.

To update our knowledge of Lake States logging businesses, the three states will be surveying business owners during Spring Breakup in 2022. The surveys will ask about business operations in 2021. Individuals representing logging businesses, industry, agencies, logger education programs, and academics are currently designing the 2022 surveys and identifying who should receive a survey via email or mail.

Each state is responsible for designing and administering its own questionnaire. To better understand the status of logging businesses across the entire region, many of the same questions will be asked in each state. But, since each state is unique, some questions will be unique to only one state.

The surveys will be analyzed and summarized within each state and a composite profile of the sector will be created with information provided back to interested parties.

As in any survey, getting a high response rate is important. The forest products industry in the Lake States, agencies, and others will be asked to contact logging business owners to encourage them to complete and respond to the survey they will receive. We encourage FRA members to reach out to suppliers and encourage them to complete the survey.