MARIANNA, Fla. (WMBB) — The state forest service continues to utilize Florida Forests Week as an educational opportunity. 

Staff members of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Congressman Neal Dunn all took the Florida Forestry Association Timber Tour Tuesday to learn more about timber’s role in the panhandle. The tour covered the industry, from seeds to sawmills and every aspect in between.  

“We’re acquainting the staffers with an understanding of the timber cycle from seedling to an intermediate thinning harvest and then on to a final harvest about 50 years after the seedlings are planted,” said Tree Farmer and Florida Forestry Board of Directors member John Alter. 

Tree farmers only see 1 or 2 harvests in their lifetime because of the time it takes for trees to grow. Hurricane Michael devastated the timber industry, destroying millions of trees that were close to harvest. If it weren’t for the Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant, many farmers would be out of jobs, and the timber industry would be in shambles. 

“That’s the first federal block grant that was ever passed in Congress,” said Alter. “If it had not been for that, the timber industry would have really suffered almost a no-comeback situation. Fortunately, funding was made available to help tree farmers clear the land and then provide new seedlings.”

Trees help produce goods that people rely on every day, from oxygen to paper products and cell phone screens to hot chocolate.

“Coatings on medicines, sports drinks, ice cream, and the list goes on and on. Over 5000 products start, with a tree,” said Florida Forestry Association Executive Vice President Alan Shelby.

The Florida Timber Recovery Block Grant was $380 million. It was funded by the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.