Chavez-DeRemer tours Weyerhaeuser mill

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), a member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Forestry Subcommittee, toured the Weyerhaeuser lumber mill in Lebanon on Aug. 30.

Chavez-DeRemer told Lebanon Local the purpose of her visit was to recognize how valuable the company is in the state of Oregon and across the country, and to find out where the “pressure points” are in the industry so she can determine how the federal government could best help. Those areas of interest might include loans and grants, transportation or industry issues, or supporting apprenticeship programs and the workforce.

Chavez-DeRemer introduces herself to an employee.

“The employee shortage is where we’re seeing most of the inquiries in my office,” she said. “How do we get more people to work and how do we stay on line? That’s what I want to know from their eyes and talking to these employees. What’s the benefit of working here in the community and working for a very large company, and how do we keep them employed and keep the doors open?”

During a big anti-logging movement from the 1990s into the 21st century, many young people intentionally chose a career outside the industry as they entered the workforce, Unit Manager Luke Rappe told Lebanon Local. Weyerhaeuser connects with high school students and clubs, and has an apprenticeship program through Linn-Benton Community College to encourage a stronger workforce.

Rappe and Operations Manager George Virtue explained the milling process and answered questions during a tour of the facility. Virtue told Chavez-DeRemer one area where he might like to see some help would be regarding environmental policies.

Chavez-DeRemer, Oregon’s 5th congressional district representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, center, speaks with Weyerhaeuser Operations Manager George Virtue during a tour of the Lebanon lumber mill.

“Probably the most crucial thing for us is a stable log supply coming in,” Virtue said. “There’s a lot of movement to have sound environmental policies and be sustainable, so as long as we can work together on what makes sense around those areas to maintain a stable log supply (would be good).”

Chavez-DeRemer said it’s clear sustainability matters to all Oregonians.

“(Regardless of party), people want a living forest, people want it to be a healthy forest, still have production, be in the economy, and then be able to have certainty when you’re in that market,” she said. “I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure that everybody is being treated fair so we do have access to that, and at the same time protect our natural resource. It’s renewable, we know it, and learning and leaning on the data and the science is proving to be the easiest way (rather than political) to get to the best policy, in my opinion. With this kind of technology and more investment in the future of technology, we’ll even be able to fine tune it.”

Chavez-DeRemer has so far held two Farm Bill 2023 listening sessions and is continuing to solicit feedback from stakeholders across the 5th District. For more information about Chavez-DeRemer and the Farm Bill, visit https://chavez-deremer.house.gov/media/press-releases/chavez-deremer-announces-committee-assignments. For information on how to submit feedback for the Farm Bill, visit https://chavez-deremer.house.gov/media/press-releases/chavez-deremer-salinas-issue-joint-statement-requesting-oregonians-farm-bill-0.