MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $10 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for a statewide program to help Alabama timber owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grant program will be administered through the Alabama Forestry Commission and will include grants of up to $10,000 on a first-come, first-serve basis to qualifying timber owners who harvested timber in Alabama during the months of March through July.
The payment rate will be $1 per ton of timber sold.
Initial payments will be pending evaluation of program participation and available funding.
“The forestry industry has an economic impact of over $23 billion in the state of Alabama and provides over 40,000 jobs in some of the most rural parts of our state,” Ivey said. “CARES Act funds are intended to stabilize our economic losses and help our state recover from COVID-19. This program is designed to reduce the burden of Alabama’s 23 million acres of timberland and the subsequent jobs that depend on a healthy timber industry.”
This program will include grants of up to $10,000 on a first-come, first-serve basis to qualifying timber owners who harvested timber in Alabama during the months of March through July.
“The Alabama Forestry Commission understands that forest landowners in the state have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus. These assistance payments will not make landowners whole, but they will help,” said State Forester Rick Oates. “An even more important effect of this program will be that this money will not sit in people’s bank accounts. It will help landowners better care for the forest resources with which they are entrusted, and in doing so, will be reinvested in the economy and be spent several times. We are pleased that Governor Ivey chose to use CARES money to help Alabama forest landowners.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Forestry Association, Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama TREASURE Forest Association expressed their gratitude for the money, saying this is much-needed due to the pandemic’s impacts.
“COVID-19 has hit Alabama’s forest industry hard,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “Prices have decreased for timber used for lumber as well as pulpwood used to make paper. We appreciate Gov. Ivey recognizing the importance of private forest landowners to our economy and environment. This funding will help lessen the blow for those who sold timber this spring.”
The ATFA’s executive director, William Green, said the program will help forest owners sustain ongoing management practices.
“Unlike seasonal crops, forest products are a long-term investment. It is challenging to recover from depressed prices at harvest because the investment in a mature tree often spans decades,” said Green. “This program will offset some of the losses timber owners experienced this spring and will help them continue managing their land for multiple uses, including wildlife habitat.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission is developing application and payment procedures. The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama TREASURE Forest Association say they will provide more information as it becomes available.
“We are grateful to Governor Ivey for recognizing how important the forest products industry is to the state’s economy and the critical role forest landowners play in the supply chain,” said Chris Isaacson, Executive Vice President of the Alabama Forestry Association. “Like many segments of the economy, forest landowners have been particularly hard hit and we appreciate the opportunity to work with the Governor to provide this much needed relief.”
Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of federal CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate COVID-19.
The $10 million in forestry relief is authorized as part of $300 million approved by the Alabama Legislature to be used to support citizens, businesses nonprofits and faith-based organizations of the state directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.