A lumber mill west of Burlington that employs 70 will close in November due to ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China, the company announced this week.
Tacoma-based Northwest Hardwoods, which operates the mill on Farm to Market Road, will close Nov. 20, according to a statement emailed to the Skagit Valley Herald from a company spokesman.
The mill’s 70 workers will be laid off indefinitely, according to the statement.
“This difficult decision was made after exploring all other options and as prospects dimmed for a quick resolution to the U.S. and China trade dispute,” the statement said.
U.S. hardwood lumber exports to China have decreased by about 40% since July 2018, following China’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. lumber and wood products, according to a Sept. 26 Wall Street Journal article, which first reported the mill closure.
“Across our industry, the trade dispute has drastically decreased demand for U.S. produced hardwood,” Northwest Hardwoods said in its statement. “As China looks to other countries with less regulated and sustainable hardwood supplies to meet market demand, supply chains may be permanently disrupted.”
According to a 2018 report from the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, China was the top buyer for Northwest hardwood lumber, driven by demand for furniture and the growth of China’s middle class.
Northwest Hardwoods is the largest Northern American hardwood supplier and has 28 locations, according to the company’s statement.
The company also plans to close its mill in Maury River, Virginia.
“The announcement is painful for many members of our extended community,” the statement said.