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Winthrop, ME 04364
V: (207) 377-7196
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Wednesday, May 21 2014

Squeezed pallet mill adds hemlock

Years ago Sir Issac Newton, stated “for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” While he was interpreting laws of motion, our economy also works symmetrically. During my last report I wrote “Essentially they (construction mat mills) are buying good quality firewood/hardwood pulpwood and paying log prices … to the benefit of landowners.”

Perhaps I should have added hardwood pallet logs to that list, because this week a buyer for Issacson Lumber Company in Livermore Falls called saying that they were having a hard time procuring pallet-grade hardwood. Sir Issac was right. The benefit that mat mills in New Portland, Oxford, and Biddeford, etc. gained, has come in-part at the expense of the traditional pallet mills.

As a result, Issacson has re-engineered some of their pallets to utilize slightly thicker hemlock boards and are thus buying hemlock as a substitute. Obviously the mill was caught in a bind, with fewer hardwood logs coming in, and as their buyer said, “We can’t saw air.” So they’ve expanded their procurement to include 10” to 20” diameter hemlock logs and are paying market rates for them.

Though I recognize Issacson’s plight, hemlock has historically been a poorly utilized log species, as few mills buy it, thus I see a likely and real landowner benefit from this expansion of the hemlock market. However it may take Sir Issac himself to entirely predict the outcome of Issacson’s new procurement policy.