Market changes signal Beach’s efforts to save industry may have been in vain

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 26, 2001

Harvey &uot;Buck&uot; Beach has more at stake in the timber industry than merely his company. He has his heart, too.

As a nationally recognized leader in the industry, the Natchez logger has lobbied from Washington, D.C., to capitol halls in Jackson. He thinks today that his efforts may have been to no avail.

&uot;It all boils down to a control thing by the big industries,&uot; said Beach, who follows in the footsteps of a grandfather and father in the business.

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&uot;The markets changed with all the world competition, and the timber industry didn’t keep up as well as they should with what was happening,&uot; said Beach, of Harvey Beach & Son on Greenfield Road.

&uot;Other countries can do what we do at costs much less than ours, and one of the things the big industries have done is to cut wood costs.&uot;

Beach referred to big pulp and paper companies that traditionally have been big buyers of the Mississippi loggers’ products. &uot;They could cut wood costs a lot easier than cutting costs in the middle of those unions in the plants,&uot; he said.

&uot;They just said to us ‘you’ll haul at our price or we’ll get someone else to haul,’&uot; Beach said.

Desperate circumstances in the industry have led to logging practices Beach regrets. As one who worked in the 1990s to formulate ways for loggers to guarantee forests that would be protected for future generations, he sees activities in the region’s woods that are simply wrong.

&uot;As the market has turned, a lot of the loggers are not taking care of the land. This puts a lot of pressure on people who were trying to take care of it. It costs money to do that,&uot; he said.

Bad times have led to bad decisions not just on the part of the loggers. &uot;A lot of finance companies shouldn’t have given loans for some of the equipment they financed. The people who lost their equipment because they couldn’t pay their loans drove our costs up.&uot;

The same thing happened in the insurance field, Beach said. &uot;We have more costs just as prices are going down. You’re just caught and can’t do anything about it.&uot;

After spending the past 10 years working with others to shore up the industry, Beach now sees it going the other way. &uot;It really has upset me,&uot; he said.

The state of Mississippi does not realize how the timber industry affects the economy, Beach said. &uot;We have figured that in 1999 the state lost more than $300 million in sales and fuel taxes as a result of what is happening in our industry.&uot;

Beach considers himself an average logger. An example of hardships besetting his and other businesses, he cited fuel taxes he pays. &uot;I pay between $7,000 and $10,000 a quarter just in fuel taxes.&uot;

Still looking for ways to save the timber industry, he wonders why so much of the wood harvested in Mississippi has to leave the state. &uot;We’ve got to look at alternatives. Why can’t we do something with it that would keep this natural resource in our state? Let’s get the full use of our trees.&uot;