WASHINGTON (February 22, 2012)—President Barack Obama, building on the “We Can’t Wait” theme, this week announced plans to dramatically increase the federal government’s purchase of biobased products and in doing so, attempt to increase jobs in rural America.
“We applaud the Administration’s efforts to increase the use of agriculture products and jobs in rural communities, but we need a guarantee that this effort will include forest products,” American Forest Foundation President and CEO Tom Martin said.
“America’s forests, owned in large part by families, are the backbone of rural communities across the country, supporting almost 1 million jobs. Including forest products in this program will create demand for these products, helping to bring back the 322,805 jobs we’ve lost in the forestry sector since 2005. With strong demand for forest products, the families who own America’s forests will be better able to conserve and manage them,” Martin said.
“In the past, most forest products, like hardwood flooring, have not qualified as ‘biobased’ products, even though they are largely made of bio-content. Other products that directly compete with these American products, like bamboo which is primarily imported, have been consider ‘biobased’,” Hardwood Federation Executive Director Deb Hawkinson said.
“In the last few years, more than 1,000 mills across rural America have been shuttered. We’ve seen the most dramatic losses in states like North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, which have each lost more than 10,000 jobs in the forest sector since 2005. Now is the time for the Administration and Congress to recognize the jobs and economic loss our rural communities have suffered and take steps to ensure that American-made forest products aren’t disadvantaged by biobased procurement requirements,” Hawkinson said.