FRA 2022 Annual Meeting Summary of Business
“Excellence in the Face of Challenges”
FRA’s 88th Annual Meeting, May 16-18, drew 160 members and friends to Hilton Head, SC, for committee work, educational sessions, and the governance decisions that will guide the Association through the coming year. For those in attendance, we ask you take a few minutes to complete a short meeting survey – your feedback is important as we plan future FRA events.
The meeting kicked off with special guest Randy Moore, Chief of the USDA Forest Service, who spoke of the importance of partnering with the forest products industry to achieve national forest management objectives to improve forest health and meet the goals of the wildfire mitigation plan. The Chief emphasized that the Forest Service is on track to meet aggressive timber management goals on federal forest lands and that meeting these goals is key to addressing wildfire risk in the west and insects and disease in federal forest stands in the rest of the country. Chief Moore also discussed how the forest service faces workforce issues in finding skilled labor and acknowledged ongoing challenges of insufficient forest products industry infrastructure, particularly around federal forests. This infrastructure is critical in providing market demand for fiber generated from federal forest thinning projects. Moore also stated that while the focus of Congress is on western forests, the agency will continue to provide funding to other forest service regions to meet timber management goals.
Over the course of the meeting, members heard insights from a slate of dynamic speakers:
- David Sewell, President and CEO of WestRock, discussed “The Importance of Resilience – Building Strength in Business”, reviewing WestRock’s business operations in the current global environment.
- Joe Brusuelas, Principal and Chief Economist, RSM US LLP, provided an outlook on the U.S. and global economy, addressing the impacts of inflation and geopolitical conflict on consumers and the middle market.
- Brian Gugliotta, Principal, True Search, addressed strategies to incorporate DEI as a means to build effective leadership teams and workforce organizations.
- Jim Ellis, Senior Political Analyst, BIPAC, gave an overview and predictions for the 2022 midterm elections.
- Pete Madden, President and CEO, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, presented strategies to support the North American forest industry and resolve supply chain issues.
- Ellen Voie, President and CEO, Women in Trucking; Carl Hamilton, General Manager, New South Express; and Jeremy Morris, General Manager, Ag Services, J.B. Hunt, discussed nationwide trucking challenges and potential solutions.
FRA’s National Committees and the THATS Foundation met, developing recommendations based on these presentations and other reports. The committees also reviewed the draft FY2022-2024 Strategic Plan, and FRA is now working to finalize language that captures their recommendations.
National Public Policy/Advocacy Committee
The National Public Policy and Advocacy Committee convened with a presentation from Jim Ellis, Senior Policy Advisor with BIPAC, who provided an outlook on the upcoming midterm elections. The committee then reviewed changes to the FRA strategic plan, accepting and passing an amendment to include monitoring and assessing the impacts of the USDA Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Plan.
In the coming weeks, the committee will begin to outline its priorities for the next Congress, based on issues ranked in order of importance by FRA’s Executive Committee as follows:
- Forest-based carbon neutrality
- The Endangered Species Act—specifically the proposed rule to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered.
- Workforce issues, including H-2B visa forestry workers
- Climate change
- Independent Contractor Status
- Innovative wood products
- Federal lands
National Operations Committee
During the Operations Committee business meeting, a special projects update was provided as outlined below:
- Dr. Joe Conrad’s (University of Georgia) FRA-funded trucking insurance study was completed on November 30th, 2021. Project deliverables include:
- 2 FRA webinars (November 2021 and February 2022)
- 2 FRA Technical Releases (21-R-34 and 21-R-36)
- Dr. Conrad is in the process of submitting two peer-reviewed manuscripts to the International Journal of Forest Engineering and Journal of Safety Research.
- Last December, FRA hosted its popular “Timber Harvesting & Procurement Short Course” after a 13-year hiatus. Twenty-four “students” representing 14 companies and three FRA regions convened at Auburn University on December 14th – 16th for the 50th installment of the course. Demand for the course remains high, and planning has already started to host the 51st installment at Auburn University next December.
- An Executive Summary is expected soon from the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute on a State Logger Training & Education Survey distributed in April to state Logger Training and Education coordinators across the country. The goal is to develop a benchmark of where each state is with respect to logging safety (what does the course or curriculum entail, delivery method, last time content was refreshed or updated, to what level does safety data help drive or shape their course content). The committee is interested in identifying barriers that inhibit their ability to enhance safety training in their respective states and will work in conjunction with the THATS Foundation on next steps at the national and regional levels.
- A lengthy discussion was generated on a project proposal received from Dr. Conrad to develop a log truck cost model in the U.S. South. A task force is being formed to further discuss FRA’s role in funding the study, expand the study region to include a broader membership base, better define the project deliverables, and provide proposal modifications to Dr. Conrad if needed.
The committee has identified common issues across all regions as follows and will work to develop strategies to address these issues as part of the revised strategic plan:
- Labor/workforce shortages (recruiting and retention issues)
- Supply chain constraints (parts, consumable supplies, shipping container availability)
- Limited access to capital for reinvestment
- Concerns around succession planning for the entire supply chain.
National Supplier/Consumer Relations Committee
The committee heard from Pete Madden, President and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, who spoke about how the Endowment is working to enhance the supply chain and develop new products and markets for forest products. There are many opportunities for FRA and the Endowment to work together, and the committee will look for those opportunities going forward.
The committee is also working on an inventory of post-secondary training programs for loggers, forest product truckers, and mill workers, which will provide an opportunity for FRA members to recruit workers from these programs, send potential employees to these programs, and connect the schools so that they can learn from each other. The committee has identified and connected with over a dozen programs across the country, and is working on gathering information from them. The committee agreed to finish current information gathering and publish what is discovered in the hope that sharing information publicly will help identify even more programs.
The committee then discussed ways to support improved safety in the woods and how it interacts with increased scrutiny from customers and partners. A subcommittee will be developing a proposal on this for review at the FRA Fall Board Meeting in September.
National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety Foundation
The National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety (THATS) Foundation met to review the financial status of the Foundation and then held discussions as follows:
- THATS Safety App
- Foundation members reviewed the safety app that has been promoted for the last few years. It was established that many FRA members still do not know the benefits the app could afford them. The group concluded that a task team would be formed to investigate ways to better promote the tool to companies and individuals in the forestry industry.
- Future plans
- Members had a discussion on the relevance and future of THATS and stressed the focus given to safety in timber harvesting is relevant and important, but that it is necessary to broaden the reach and achieve a larger audience during meetings. The group will meet again before the 2022 Fall Board Meeting to brainstorm ideas.
Through the online and live auctions, almost $15,000 was raised for the Foundation. Thank you to all who donated and bid, and to Richard Schwab for being an outstanding auctioneer!
National Awards Dinner
During the May 17 National Awards Dinner, Anna Morgan Duke with the Alabama Forestry Association was recognized as the 2022 National Technical Writing Award winner for her Technical Release 21-R-13, “Lucy Meets a Logger Tours Schools Across Alabama”. Ken, Brent, and Brad Martin with Mar-Cal, Inc of Mendenhall, MS, were recognized as the 2022 National Outstanding Logger award recipients and presented with a plaque and check from STIHL, who has sponsored this award for over 30 years.
Earlier that evening, FRA members Keith Biggs, Forestry Mutual Insurance, and John Pait, ArborGen, were recognized ahead of their retirement later this year. We sincerely thank Keith and John for their service and dedication to both FRA and the industry.
Board of Directors Meeting
At the May 18 Board of Directors Meeting, attendees:
- Reviewed FRA’s financial performance over the past fiscal year.
- Approved the FY 2022-2023 budget.
- Reviewed reports from FRA’s National Committees and the THATS Foundation.
- Heard the Meetings Advisory Group report on upcoming meetings: FRA’s Fall Board Meeting will take place at the Westin Portland Harborview September 28-30, and the 2023 Annual Meeting will be held at The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, Point Clear, AL, May 8-10. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend.
- Finally, following the approval of the 2022-2024 FRA Board of Directors at the May 17 Annual Member Meeting, the 2022-2024 Executive Committee and National Committees were elected.
Continuing Education Credits
The FRA 2022 Annual Meeting was approved for 6.5 Category 1 SAF CFE credits, and sign-in sheets have been submitted to the SAF national office. Please reach out if you have questions regarding obtaining proper credit for your meeting attendance.
Thank you to the FRA 2022 Annual Meeting sponsors – this meeting would not have been possible without you. This was a record year for sponsorship, and we are incredibly thankful for your support.