A new generation of New England farmers is struggling to hold onto its papermaking heritage amid a growing push by the federal government to scrap the region’s $1.4 billion contract to make paper at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The federal contract was awarded in the late 1990s, with the goal of helping to revive a papermaking industry that had largely disappeared in the mid-2000s as the papermaking market became more globalized.
In 2016, the U.S. Paper Association said it would sell its stake in UMass, which includes the University, to a private company that would use the funds to rebuild the paper mill.
But the deal has stalled, and UMass officials have said the mill is too expensive to continue operating.
In a recent interview with Axios, Bill Schmitz, the president of the papermakers’ union, said that the mill was no longer economically viable.
The mill has lost more than $2 million in market value since 2015, Schmity said.
Schmitz said that a majority of the mill’s workers have quit, citing a lack of compensation for their pensions.
He also said that workers were being forced to work longer hours, and that the factory is not able to hire enough new workers because of a lack in the supply of labor.
Schmetz said he hopes to find a buyer to replace the mill, but that a new mill is unlikely.
Schmite said he hoped to find some sort of buyer for the mill and that he would continue to work to restore the mill to its former glory.
“We have to get back to making paper again,” he said.
“We’re not going to give up.
We’re not gonna give up.”
Schmites son, Mark Schmiti, who owns the mill in Williamsburg, said he was disappointed by the lack of support for the Millers Papermaking Heritage and that it is disappointing that the federal contract could not be renegotiated.
“The mill has been the jewel of the town for 50 years,” Schmitit said.
“There’s no reason that the government could not have had a different contract.”
The mill is the state’s largest papermaking employer, employing more than 30,000 people.
The company makes about 30 percent of its products in-state.
A spokesperson for the University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The UMass contract, valued at $1 billion, will go away if the mill closes.
But, if the company can find a new owner, the contract could be renewed for a third time.
The mill’s closure has already forced other mills to close.
In April, the state shut down the local papermaking plant in Newburyport, where the UMass mill is located.