Working in Tandem with NAHB, Lawmakers Send a Strong Message to Commerce Secretary on Lumber Duties

Filed in Advocacy, Environment, Material Costs by on December 22, 2021 8 Comments

At the behest of NAHB, 84 members of Congress this week sent a joint letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo expressing urgent concern regarding the Commerce Department’s recent decision to double tariffs on softwood lumber products from Canada. The letter also calls on the United States to resume talks with Canada to negotiate a new softwood lumber trade agreement.

NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke applauded the bipartisan group of lawmakers for “taking a stand for housing and homeownership.”

“The current situation is clearly untenable, with lumber duties of 18% exacerbating severe price volatility and making it difficult for millions of Americans to afford a home,” Fowke said. “It should be noted that the congressional letter does not take sides in this trade dispute, but rather highlights the urgent need to reach a balanced agreement that would ‘provide predictability to home builders and job security for the millions of hardworking Americans who apply their skills every day in the construction industry.’ Removing costly lumber duties would also be an important step forward to resolve the building material supply chain bottlenecks that are delaying construction projects and raising the cost of housing.”

Although lumber prices began a sharp decline from their record high in May, it took months for a meaningful portion of those price reductions to reach the construction industry and its customers. Unfortunately, prices began rising again in September and have increased substantially in recent weeks.

“Historically high lumber and building material prices continue to imperil the U.S. housing sector and the jobs of the skilled workers in this sector,” the letter to Sec. Raimondo stated. “Housing construction is an important contributor to the U.S. economy, especially as the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this success is at risk as the construction industry faces a dramatic increase in the costs of materials.”

The congressional letter to Sec. Raimondo does not take sides in this trade dispute. It simply highlights the urgent need for the United States and Canada to renew negotiations in an effort to come to an equitable solution that will satisfy all sides — including domestic industries and consumers — that rely on softwood lumber for their economic well-being.

“Such an agreement would be in the interests of the United States because it would provide predictability to home builders and job security for the millions of hardworking Americans who apply their skills every day in the construction industry,” the lawmakers stated. “Resolving this matter in a balanced way would help the economy recover from the disruptions of the past year.”

Read the letter.

For more information, contact Alex Strong at 800-368-5242 x8279.

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Comments (8)

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  1. The greed factor of the mills is a significant force as well.
    Rick

    • Mark Edy says:

      Greed factor? Seriously?
      I stared in the lumber business in 1972. At that time the Random Lengths showed the average price of softwood framing lumber at approximately $150 per Mbf. So, this year it went up to over $1,600 and now hovers around $1,100. The current price represents 7.6 times the price of 1972. At the same time the price of the average home was $27,235 while today it is 342,850 as of August or 12.6 times that of 1972. How about the first new pickup I bought in 1972 for $3,000? today that vehicle would be about $45,000 or an increase of 15 times. In the last few years the Random Lengths price of lumber has run closer to $4350-500. If we look at the $500 level, that is only 3l3 times the price of 1972. I believe you are pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Lumber prices have been too cheap.

  2. Daniel Garcia says:

    I would say after the housing bubble leaving mills holding the bag, they are within their right to decline increasing production due to the same labor and capitalization problems many NAHB members face. They’ve got just as much greed as anyone else in a “free market”. If you want to attack greed, stop lawmakers from trading in markets. They’ve got no business doing so as “public servants”, and it biases their decision making. Just follow Pelosi’s trades in 2020. She outperformed any hedge fund by employing her informational privilege. If that doesn’t bias decision making, much like this lumber issue, I don’t know what does.
    The question is, who stands to gain from leaving the tariffs and volatility in place? Answer: financial markets. They are telling the housing industry that they don’t care. That they’d rather speculate the ups and downs of a more volatile lumber commodity price than actually have houses built by the hard working small businesses of America. They’d rather see those small business and the families and communities that back them go belly up than give up the expansionary monetary track required of the federal government and others by their creditors. In other words: we’re no longer free.
    Start working on another career because you’re not going to have the same housing industry you have now, in less than 10 years time.

  3. I don’t understand why manufactured wood products have spiraled out of control. Made in a controlled environment. Large manufacturers of I-joists, LVLs, OSB, Advantec as well as windows particularly.
    We are paying more than twice what we paid 2 years ago for any choice of windows and interior doors. The factory workers have not been given raises, logging people are saying they’re still working on 5-10 year old pricing, has not changed, our building suppliers are saying they have raised pricing only to cover their increased costs from manufacturers. It seems to narrow down to manufacturing price gouging. It’s amazing how all of the manufacturers seem to be in harmony with their increases.

  4. I was finalizing a construction contract for a project I bid in September, so I requested an update from my suppliers. To my surprise, the cost of framing lumber had increased by 115% in only three months. The supplier also told me they could only honor the updated quote for one week.
    Scrap the tariffs. They are screwing us!

  5. James D Obert says:

    So glad to see the delegation from Southwest Ohio is wholly represented by the signers of this letter

  6. Please ask Secretary Raimondo to eliminate all building material tariffs for the foreseeable future!
    Onwards and Upwards with Health, Happy New Year, and Cheers!

  7. BENJAMIN C FRENCH says:

    Need to remove the tariffs and restart the lumber mills that have been shut down.

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