Family Transportation Company in Idaho Expands to Biomass Products

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The Buell family has been in the transporting business since 1959, hauling logs, equipment, wood chips, sawdust, rock, gravel and biomass. From left to right: Front: Jack , Eleanor and Frank Back: Kevin and Mickey

One of the largest employers in Benewah County, Idaho, happens to be involved in the agriculture industry. Jack Buell Co, Inc. is a family owned business that started in 1959 in St. Maries, Idaho. The family operation transports forest products from the woods to manufacturing facilities throughout three states.

Jack Buell started the company with one log truck and a small shop. Today, the company has grown to more than 200 trucks and covers an average of 400 miles a day hauling to locations in Idaho, Washington and Montana. The business consists of approximately 200 employees, which includes three generations of Buell family members.

Mickey Buell and his brothers Kevin and Frank both work for the company. Mickey oversees the company’s chippers and grinders and also handles biomass. Kevin is in charge of log trucks and transfers and Frank is responsible for the chip and lumber trucks. Some of the Buell children also work for the family business. At the heart of the company is Jack and his wife Eleanor.

The family business started by hauling logs and slowly moved into hauling equipment, wood chips, sawdust, rock, gravel and biomass. The end product from hauled timber is plywood and finished lumber products such as 2×4 and 2×6 boards.

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A chip van is loaded and hauls to Clearwater Paper in Lewiston, Idaho. The Buell family hauls forest products to three states.

The company added more diversification when they expanded to processing on-site in the woods. Remaining forest debris such as tree limbs, tops and waste are grinded into a usable bio-product that is used to generate energy.

Jack Buell Co, Inc. has participated in the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) for the last couple of years. BCAP provides financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who establish, produce and deliver biomass feedstocks.

“Participating in BCAP has enabled us to travel farther to get materials that would otherwise be left in the woods,” said Mickey. “It’s a step forward for the industry.”

Just like traditional farmers and ranchers, the weather and markets also affect the trucking industry. Winter weather can impair road conditions making travel hazardous. Loading and unloading can also be affected when temperatures drop below freezing.

Like any other market driven industry, there are peaks and plateaus. The Buell family’s participation in BCAP the past two years has been limited due to the drop in natural gas and oil prices. When market trends change, the Buell family will become more involved in hauling biomass again.

BCAP was reauthorized with modifications by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program is part of a national strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic security and reduce carbon pollution by developing more agricultural products made in rural America.

As consumer demand for local products rises, U.S. companies like Jack Buell Co, Inc. are working to meet the demand by hauling raw products to local markets. USDA is working hard to introduce these family farmers, ranchers and businesses to the American consumer.

For more information about local food and markets visit http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer?navid=kyf-kyf. For more information on the FSA BCAP program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

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