Summary of Business – FRA 2023 Legislative Fly-In and Fall Meeting
Summary of Business – FRA 2023 Legislative Fly-In and Fall Meeting
Last week, FRA held its biennial legislative fly-in, 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. We want to thank everyone who took time out of their schedules to join us in Washington, D.C. For those in attendance, please take a few minutes to complete a short meeting SURVEY – your feedback is essential as we plan future FRA events.
Regional and state teams worked to promote FRA policy priorities, emphasizing workforce development, transportation, and the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass. During the meetings, fly-in participants asked members of Congress to cosponsor the Jobs in the Woods Act (H.R. 5344), the Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2493, S. 1818), and support the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass. FRA members also welcomed President-elect Keith Gray and said farewell to FRA President Deb Hawkinson, who will retire at the end of October.
FRA Legislative Fly-in Day
For more information on the policy priorities that FRA members advocated for during our fly-in, please click on the links below.
Jobs In the Woods Act
Safe Routes Act
- Rep. Barry Moore (R-AL-2), serving the House since 2021, addressed members during our welcome dinner and spoke to the current environment in D.C., addressing the implications a shutdown would have on the federal government. Rep. Moore is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, which is currently drafting the Farm Bill. Rep. Moore also serves on the House Judiciary Committee, an important committee to address improved access to H-2B non-immigrant labor, critical to regenerating America’s forestlands.
- Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI-7) was our guest speaker following the advocacy day on Capitol Hill. Rep. Tiffany is a member of both the House Natural Resources Committee and House Judiciary Committee and serves as Chair of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The Congressman spoke about the importance of managing Forest Service Lands and how critical timber sales are to the economy of his district. He addressed making the Forest Service more accountable by introducing legislation that requires the agency to accurately assess the number of acres treated on Federal lands. Currently, the Forest Service overestimates acres treated by 21 percent. The ACRES Act (H.R. 1567) passed out of the House almost unanimously in mid-September and requires the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to report on efforts to reduce wildfires and to standardize data collection for those activities. The bill would require each department to report the number of acres of federal land that underwent vegetation management to reduce the risk of wildfire in the previous year. He also addressed the role of forest management and forest products in carbon sequestration and storage.
- Ed Gilroy, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, American Trucking Associations (ATA), discussed the current situation in Washington, D.C., and the implications of a government shutdown. He also addressed several bills that ATA is supporting in the current Congress, which include Truck Parking Safety (H.R. 2367), The License Act (H.R. 3013), and the Dry Bulk Weight Tolerance Act (H.R. 3318). He also discussed the importance of independent contractors to the trucking industry. ATA opposes the proposed rule of the Biden administration that would dramatically change the independent contractor/employer relationship and the workforce shortage of the trucking industry. Ed also noted that the ATA is neutral on legislation that would increase truck weights on interstates, as their members are divided on this issue.
FRA Fall Board Meeting
The work of the FRA National Committees was reported during the September 28 Board of Directors Meeting.
National Public Policy/Advocacy Committee
This committee meets monthly, and at their last meeting, the FRA team provided updates on several policy areas, including workforce, Farm Bill status, establishment of a biomass working group to promote the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass at the national and state level, and F.Y. 2024 appropriations. The committee additionally provided updates on the rulemaking efforts of the Biden administration.
Since then, the FRA policy team has been successful in having the bipartisan Jobs in the Woods Act introduced. This effort took several months of the FRA team working with members of Congress, House Agriculture Committee staff, legislative counsel, and established forestry workforce training programs to prepare the legislation. FRA also prepared an Op-ed piece on the Act, which was published in “The Hill,” a widely circulated non-partisan newspaper for and about Congress.
The FRA policy team prepares grassroots action alerts that allow members to easily contact their members of Congress to urge them to support legislation. The action alerts are available on the FRA website, and two are currently active – Support the Jobs in the Woods Act and Support the Safe Routes Act.
National Operations Committee
FRA’s National Operations Committee held a Zoom Meeting on September 14th. Committee Chair Chris Lunde led a roundtable discussion of national wood fiber supply issues, challenges, and concerns reported by members in each FRA region.
Committee leadership recently collaborated with the Supplier-Consumer Relations Committee leadership to discuss action items from the Logging Capacity presentation at FRA’s Annual Meeting in Point Clear, AL. The Operations Committee has committed to exploring solutions to address the “Build Knowledge and Skills” recommendation provided by Drs. Blinn and Conrad. Action items include:
- The Operations Committee will seek opportunities to partner with state logging and forestry associations to host logging business management workshops for independent contractors. FRA has had preliminary discussions with the University of Georgia regarding co-sponsorship and promotion of their existing Logging Cost Analysis Workshop.
- Enhance FRA’s current Timber Harvesting & Procurement Short Course in the Southern US and explore opportunities to expand the course to other FRA regions. Ideas include recording the course for on-demand access and developing a standard “core curriculum,” allowing customized add-on options at the region level.
National Supplier/Consumer Relations Committee
FRA’s Supplier/Consumer Relations Committee is focused on several items important to suppliers and consumers, including an emphasis on logging capacity stemming from a presentation by Drs. Blinn and Conrad.
In conjunction with the Operations Committee, the Supplier/Consumer Relations Committee has begun to address a number of issues, including:
- Ways to better understand the cost structure of logging and trucking costs; this discussion led to a recent Woods to Mill article on the Producer Price Index for Logging
- Development of a database of post-secondary programs for forest industry workforce training for those in the woods, on the road, and in the mills
- Finding ways to assist small businesses, including logging firms, engage in transition planning in order to preserve the supply chain infrastructure.
Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety (THATS) Foundation
During the THATS Foundation meeting on September 21, Chuck Coup, Program Manager, Pennsylvania SFI Implementation Committee, provided a progress report for Part 1 of the grant project to help improve online logger training in PA. The THATS Foundation agreed to release the second half of the funds to continue this project.
The Foundation is looking for stable funding to help plan for future projects. This could involve approaching corporate members for multi-year commitments. Foundation Vice-Chair Steve Barnett will chair a sub-committee for finance and fundraising.
A sub-committee of Foundation Chair Wes Miller, Vice-Chair Steve Barnett, and Staff Secretary Jeff Jenkins have been working on “The Six Rules for Logging Safety” initiative, and they shared their efforts to date. They detailed a safety poster that has been designed to promote the logger safety initiative in scale houses, on logging jobs, etc. Other promotional items, such as key chains, stickers, etc., will be used to promote the six safety rules and color-coded to match OSHA colors for consistency.
Please mark your calendar and plan to attend FRA 2024 National Meetings:
- FRA 2024 Annual Meeting – The Westin Nashville, Nashville, TN, April 29 – May 1
- FRA 2024 Joint National and Western Region Fall Meeting, The Coeur d’Alene Resort, Coeur d’Alene, ID, October 1 – 3
The FRA 2023 Fly-in and Fall Meeting was approved for 9.5 Category 1 SAF CFE credits, and sign-in sheets have been submitted to the SAF national office. Please contact Claire Gedde, [email protected], if you have questions regarding obtaining credit for your meeting attendance.
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