ANTIGO - What starts with a tumble, ends in neatly packed, ready-to-ship bundles in the Kretz Lumber warehouse. Twenty percent of it will go across the ocean to China, with tariffs tearing into the profit.
"Twenty-five percent of our sales to China was reduced and we still have the same amount of overhead that you have to cover no matter what the price is," said Troy Brown, President of Kretz Lumber.
Though China's tariffs will be gone Friday, Brown says the foreign timber market is much different now from a year and a half ago.
"When their sheds are full of lumber from other countries it takes a while to empty those sheds out and start filling them with U.S. hardwoods," said Brown.
So even without tariffs, Brown wants some relief funds.
In a recent Farm Relief Package through the United States Department of Agriculture, dairy, soybean and other farmers received federal aid. But hardwood tree farmers got nothing.
"We support the Trump administration in the trade war 100 percent," said Brown. "But if the government is offering relief, you want to raise your hand as an industry and for your partners in the industry to say 'hey, what about us.'"
Brown also said he can't rely on the Chinese market right now.
"Everything we've been hearing is China has its problems," said Brown. "It's got coronavirus that everybody hears about. It's got an economy that hit a bubble and somewhat burst."
Brown hopes the Trump administration will include hardwood in the farm aid package, but isn't holding his breath.
"I am not expecting anything to come of this," said Brown. "I'd be highly surprised."
So Brown and others at Kretz Lumber will keep turning timber to lumber; hoping for a pleasant, unexpected surprise.