FRA provides an effective member voice in Washington, D.C., defending against threatening legislation and regulation while advancing public policies that support industry sustainability.

FRA’s Strategic Plan identifies several key public policy priorities for its advocacy on behalf of the forest products industry we serve. Our multi-faceted efforts in 2023 targeted those legislative and regulatory priorities.  

Workforce

Labor shortages throughout the wood supply chain made workforce a top priority in 2023.

Workforce man walking through field

H-2B Guest Worker Visas

H-2B forestry workers are critical to replanting forests following timber harvest or natural disasters. Demand for visas greatly exceeds the current annual cap of 66,000.

Transportation

The primary means of hauling raw forest products from the woods to the mill is by truck. In 2023, FRA worked to build our research base and address the safety and efficiency of transporting raw forest products.

Forest Derived Biomass

Carbon Neutrality of Forest-Based Biomass

FRA has been active in 2023 advocating at the national level for forest-based biomass energy to be considered “carbon neutral” in federal energy and environmental policymaking. Both the FY 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bills (House and Senate) reauthorize provisions that direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to embrace biomass energy as carbon neutral. While final appropriations for 2024 have not been approved, we are optimistic that this directive will be reauthorized early in the year.

In addition to the appropriations space, FRA has been collaborating with other forest products trade associations to include biomass carbon neutrality language in the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization. Leadership on both Agriculture Committees appear receptive to this effort, and we are optimistic for a favorable outcome in 2024 when the Farm Bill will be finalized.

Bats

Mature and Old-Growth Forests on Federal Lands

President Biden directed the U.S. Forest Service to define, inventory, and recommend policies to protect mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. In December, the Forest Service published a Notice of Intent that proposes to amend all 128 Forest Service Plans to include old growth protections. This may negatively impact timber harvest levels on federal lands. FRA has been actively communicating our concerns regarding a mature and old-growth forest protection policy with the Forest Service, serving on several round tables, and will be preparing and submitting comments on the proposed NOI.

Waters of the U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that narrowed a rule implemented by the Biden administration that defined Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). The SCOTUS ruling limited the scope of federal jurisdiction over waterways to those systems that have a relatively permanent direct surface connection to larger downstream waters. This decision scaled back the Biden administration’s rule that included wetlands and groundwater systems that were not connected to larger waterways. Prior to the decision by SCOTUS, FRA joined an amicus brief filed by a coalition that included several state forestry associations. The Biden administration released a “new” WOTUS rule in September 2023, without a public review period, that meets the intent of the SCOTUS decision.  

European Union Deforestation Initiative (EUDR)

FRA has been closely tracking developments on the European Union Deforestation Initiative (EUDR), a recently enacted law requiring companies trading in cattle, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, rubber, soy, and wood, as well as products derived from these commodities, to conduct extensive due diligence on the value chain to ensure the goods do not result from recent deforestation, forest degradation, or breaches of local environmental and social laws. One of the more onerous provisions is its insistence that producers from even those countries categorized as “low risk” deploy geolocation tracking technology to ensure sustainable fiber sourcing. FRA participated in a recent meeting at the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office, where officials acknowledged the unworkability of the EU measure and pledged to continue to engage EU officials to revise the policy, which will take effect at the end of 2024.

Department of Labor Rulemaking

FRA monitored several rulemaking efforts that FRA provided comment on of the DOL. These include a final rule on independent contractor classification that could negatively impact the wood supply chain, a rule that would make more workers eligible for overtime pay, and a rule to develop a national heat standard to safeguard workers from working in intense temperatures. All these rulemaking efforts were due to be completed in 2023 but have been delayed by the DOL.

Washington DC Capitol Building

FRA Legislative Fly-In

In September, FRA held its first in-person legislative fly-in since 2019, with members from across the country taking part. Participants met with almost 100 congressional offices, half of which were meetings with Members of Congress. This was an excellent opportunity to advance our priority policy issues and educate legislators and their staff on the importance of the wood supply chain to the forest products industry. Regional and state teams worked to promote FRA policy priorities, emphasizing workforce development, transportation, and the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass. 

Looking Ahead to 2024

Several opportunities exist in 2024 to advance FRA’s policy priorities. These include: 

Labor Markets National

The Economy is Doing Well, But Inflation is Overshadowing Positive Growth   

Despite high interest rates and stubborn inflation, the economy is growing…

Read More
National

2024 FRA Annual Meeting Summary of Business

FRA’s 90th Annual Meeting, in conjunction with the Southcentral Region Spring…

Read More
Appalachian Logging Logging Infrastructure Safety

Strengthening Partnerships

The Appalachian Region is an area made up of high mountains…

Read More