From Maine to Oregon, the price of sawdust, along with other wood byproducts, has soared.
When they can find it, sawdust buyers — dairy farmers, particleboard makers, wood-pellet manufacturers among them — are paying up to $50 a ton or more. That's double what they paid a year ago, some say.
There was once a time when sawmill operators could barely give away their sawdust. They dumped it in the woods or incinerated it just to get rid of the stuff. These days, they have ready markets for sawdust, as well as bark, wood chips and board trimmings that can't be sold as lumber.
....The numbers tell the story of what's going on.
In the first three months of the year, U.S. sawmills have been shipping about 114 million board feet of lumber per day, said Henry Spelter, an economist with the U.S. Forest Service forest-products laboratory in Madison, Wis. That's down from 135 million board feet per day the first three months of last year, and 160 million board feet in 2006.
....Less lumber means less sawdust.
At the same time, wood-pellet plants are popping up in need of raw supply, thereby increasing the demand, he said.
"The result, not surprisingly, is higher prices," Spelter said.