Hubbard County is paying significantly more to hand plant 157,000 tree seedlings in the spring of 2020.

Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier explained to the county board on Dec. 3 that the issue is a shortage of migrant workers into the U.S.

He recommended accepting the low bid of $80 per thousand seedlings from Generation Forestry Service out of Hattiesburg, Miss. Last year’s quote was $59.50 per thousand.

“They’re having a harder time to get people across the border into the U.S. to get these guys Green Cards. Most of the people they have doing tree planting are from Guatemala or Ecuador. Some are Mexican,” Lohmeier said. “We were informed last year that the pricing was going to be significantly higher.”

In related business, the board approved a quote for 2020 forestry site preparation. Future Forests Inc. of Askov, Minn. charges $98 per acre for trenching, $75 per acre for broadcast spraying, $85 per acre for band spraying, $87 per gallon for Tordon K herbicide, $30 per gallon for Liberator herbicide and $60 per pound for Velpar DF herbicide.

“There’s only one contractor that does this,” Lohmeier said, adding the quote increased slightly compared to last year.

With less than 200 acres to be prepped, Lohmeier estimated the total cost between $25,000 and $26,000.

County commissioner Char Christenson inquired what would happen if they did not spray any chemicals.

“You’d have a lot of brush competition” when trying to plant the trees in 2021, Lohmeier replied.

County commissioner Tom Krueger asked if prescribed burns have been used.

Lohmeier said the county doesn’t have equipment for fire control, so would have to rely on the Minnesota DNR. “At the time when you’d want to do your prescribed burns is when they are out fighting fires,” he said.

Christenson verified that timber on this acreage has been harvested and it is being readied for tree replanting.

The board also approved a quote for microsite herbicide application, or spot-gun spraying, on about 40 acres.

“We do this every year on sites that we planted the previous spring, and this is an application of Velpar and nitrogen. The nitrogen gives these trees a growth spurt, ” Lohmeier explained. “The faster we can get them up and growing beyond the normal weed line and above deer browse, the better off we are.”

Again, there is only one contractor: Eric Roberts Spraying of Battle Lake, Minn. He charges $117.50 per acre for spraying, $60 per pound for Velpar and $10 per gallon of nitrogen.

Finally, the board accepted the quote from PRT Dryden of Dryden, Ontario to grow 158,500 tree seedlings, which will be planted in the spring of 2021.

“Because of the time it takes to grow these, we have to be looking at getting our orders in,” Lohmeier said.

PRT Dryden charges $158 per 1,000 jack pine; $171 per 1,000 Norway pine; and $214 per 1,000 for white pine. The county is ordering 60,000 jack pine; 48,000 Norway pine; and 50,500 white pine seedlings. The estimated contract is $28,495.

Lohmeier said the company has “an excellent product.”

“We get very good survival rate on these seedings, probably in the 90 to 95 percentile range over the first year, whereas when we were using DNR bareroot seedlings, if we had a dry year, we could be at less than 50 percent survival,” he said.