The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handed out $9 million in grants on April 9 to more than 40 projects that would promote or increase the use of wood, including cross-laminated timber (CLT). The department also signed an agreement with the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) to help coordinate research, demonstration and market development for innovative wood building technologies.

USDA's announcement continues the agency's efforts to promote wood products as a way to bring jobs to rural areas, create new markets for American forests, and find profitable ways to manage forest lands so they are less likely to erupt in costly fires. Among the grants were funds intended to help plan construction of a CLT mill in Montana, promote CLT as a building block, and study the potential supply chain for CLT operations in the Pacific Northwest.

Another grant, to the American Wood Council, aims to improve market access for construction of tall wood buildings. Groups such as WoodWorks have pushed hard in recent years to persuade architects and commercial builders to construct mid-range high-rises out of wood rather than concrete or steel. Organizations promoting those latter two products have become alarmed in recent years as wood has gained market share.

Now comes the USDA-SLB agreement (see SLB's news release on the deal). For its part, USDA said that, "through cooperative planning and execution of research and promotional activities, the USDA and SLB will strive to create jobs in rural communities, expand wood use in the built environment and stimulate demand for forest products."

SLB is an is an industry-funded check-off program established to promote the benefits and uses of softwood lumber products in outdoor, residential, and non-residential construction.