As with all marketable products, the profit potential for the cedar industry fluctuates over time, based on many factors. A person with little or no previous experience in the industry will have a difficult time overcoming the barriers facing cedar harvesters, including the up-front capital investment costs of logging and other equipment, locating purchasers for the supply, and dealing with competitors in the market. While the potential for profit is clear, the amount of time and money required to enter the industry dissuades many individuals from entering the trade.
There are many types of cedar trees which can be grown and harvested for profit. The most common species harvested are the Northern White, the Eastern Red and Western Red. Depending on the geographic area, each tree has a different monetary value, and a different market to which it can be sold. In the Western United States for example, Red Cedar trees can command a very high price. In the plains, however, cedar may have less value than other timber species.
Cedar has many uses in the world today. Because it has no resin or sap, unlike pine or maple trees, the wood is cleaner to harvest. It is also lightweight and decay resistant, making it a good choice for use in building canoes, framing saunas and constructing various types of wood barrels. Cedar logs and cedar shingles are commonly used for building or remodelling.
A single cedar tree can live to be 400 years old, reaching a height of 150 feet. Mature cedar trees can measure 20 feet across. Planting a cedar stand requires a great deal of time and care. The trees do not begin to produce seed until about age 30. When considering propagation, the trees are their most productive at age 70 to 80. To plant a stand of cedar and expect to be able to harvest, even within a decade, is not realistic. Mature cedar trees bring in a much higher price than young, immature trees. Trees are often valued by what is called the "stump price." This price is based upon the tree's estimated value on the stump. It is estimated by the approximate number of boards which can be cut from the tree.
A special license is required to harvest a large amount of timber. A forestry or loggers' license requires special training and education. Other considerations include the equipment's high cost, finding a local market and fluctuating prices.
Currently cedar is in high demand in the U.S. and Canada. Prices for California Red Cedar are increasing as the demand for the product outweighs the supply. Cedar is one of the few timber species which can be harvested with little to no waste. Aside from traditional lumber products, cedar scraps are used for wood chips and pet bedding; the residue can be turned into fragrant oils, or fuel for space heaters. In 2003 a market analysis performed on the cedar industry in the U.S. estimated that 60 million dollars was grossed nationally from cedar harvesting.