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.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) supports Brown's plea for aid.
In a Tuesday letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Baldwin urged immediate action to provide relief to the hardwood industry - to make sure they weren't overlooked while aid is provided for other commodities.
RHINELANDER - With flights well below capacity during the coronavirus outbreak, the waiting area at the Rhinelander-Oneida County airport is empty, at a time when airport director Matthew Leitner says twice-daily flights from Rhinelander to Minneapolis are usually pretty full.
"This time of year, we're usually seeing about 60 percent [full]" Leitner said. "Of course, we're pretty far below that now."
According to Leitner, Rhinelander's airport is far from alone.
"Whether it's Chicago or Boston or Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, everyone's down 75 to 90 percent and I don't think we're an exception," Leitner said.
WISCONSIN - Gov. Tony Evers issued his "Safer at Home" order on March 24, but according to a recent survey by Unacast.com, Wisconsinites received a mediocre grade when it comes to social distancing.
The interactive map breaks down the entire nation on a county-by-county basis and assigns a letter grade for how well people appear to be practicing social distancing.
According to the data firm company, Wisconsin received the grade of "D" after studies show that residents of Wisconsin only cut down their travel by about 19%.
In a blog post by CEO and Co-founder Thomas Walle: "If we don't take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed."
ONEIDA CO. - Friday, Gov. Tony Evers called on the State Legislature to send an absentee ballot to every Wisconsin voter ahead of the April 7 Presidential Primary. However, Republican state leaders say the plan is simply not feasible.
About 1,400 absentee ballots were requested in Oneida County during the 2016 presidential primary. This year, that number has jumped to 4,000, as more people are looking to avoid voting in person.
Next Thursday, April 2, is the last day to request an absentee ballot from your municipal clerk. Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman encourages people to request it earlier than that. Under current laws, the ballot must return to the polling location by election day, on April 7.
"If you wait till April 2nd to request it," said Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman. "And if something happens with the mail and its delayed a day, your ballot may not get there. So we're encouraging everybody to get their requests in as quick as possible."
You can request an absentee ballot by going to MyVote.wi.gov. For now, there will still be in-person voting, despite the Safer at Home order.
RHINELANDER - Oneida County Health Department Director Linda Conlon confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Oneida County. The individual is in their 20s with a known history of travel. According to Conlon, the patient has been compliant with instructions from health officials and is currently in isolation.
We will have more details as they are made available by the county.
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