2024 FRA Annual Meeting Summary of Business


FRA’s 90th Annual Meeting, in conjunction with the Southcentral Region Spring Meeting, took place from April 29 to May 1 and drew over 180 members and friends to Nashville, Tennessee, for networking, committee work, educational sessions, and the governance decisions that will guide the Association through the coming year. The presentations we have permission to share are linked in this summary and can also be found on the Resources page of the FRA website. You will need to be signed in as a member to access the presentations; for assistance with access, please email Vanessa Connelly at [email protected]. For those in attendance, we ask you to please take a few minutes to complete a short meeting SURVEY – your feedback is important as we plan future FRA events.

The FRA Annual Meeting kicked off with video remarks by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Senator Blackburn welcomed members to Nashville and noted how FRA was an essential voice for the forest products industry. Senator Blackburn serves on the Finance Committee, Judiciary Committee, Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the Veterans Affairs Committee. 

Throughout the FRA Annual Meeting, members heard insights from a slate of dynamic speakers:

Brad Southern, Chair and CEO of LP Building Solutions, presented on “Forester as CEO: Lessons Learned on a Leadership Journey,” detailing his journey from forester to CEO of Louisiana Pacific. Mr. Southern provided an overview of LP’s history, beginning in 1972 and continuing to the present, and the pathway to becoming a leading manufacturer in the building materials sector. He then shared his insights and lessons learned on his journey to leadership.

Lee Anne Steigerwaldt, President and CEO of Steigerwaldt Land Services Inc., delivered a presentation on “Consulting Business Perspective on Forest and Land Management Changes.” Drawing from personal experiences, Lee highlighted the parallels between participating in an Iron Man Challenge and the intricacies of forest land management. Providing an overview of Steigerwaldt, she emphasized the changing landscape of forestland ownership and objectives. Her talk encouraged adaptability and a forward-thinking approach to meet future challenges.

Curtis Dubay, Chief Economist for the US Chamber of Commerce, provided an overview of the current economic conditions in the US in his presentation “An Economic Outlook – How Stable is the U.S. Economy?” Curtis detailed how the economy is growing faster than expected, primarily driven by consumer spending. The workforce issue facing the US is concerning, with more than 8.8 million jobs available and 2.3 million workers unemployed. Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter was below expectations, with the economy growing at 1.6%. Inflation was additionally higher than expected at 3.5 percent for the month of March. Interest rates remain high, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that these rates will not be lowered until inflation is at or below 2%. Other areas of concern that point towards a declining economy are individual savings continuing to decline and credit card debt – which has increased every month since March 2021 – reaching an all-time high. At the same time, housing prices are rising, and small business optimism has reached its lowest point since 2012, citing inflation and the workforce as the most important issues harming businesses.

Heather Slayton, State Forester and Assistant Commissioner, Tennessee Division of Forestry, provided a “Welcome to the Volunteer State”. Heather spoke about the importance of the forest products industry to the state, which directly employs nearly 30,000 people and contributes more than $10 billion to the economy. She provided demographics on the state’s 14 million acres of forestland, of which 1,000,000 acres are managed by the state, providing multiple benefits to those living in or visiting Tennessee, including clean water, clean air, and numerous recreational opportunities. 

Les Werner, Director of Wisconsin Forestry Center, College of Natural Resources, UW Stevens Point, through his presentation “National Forest Operations Training Coalition: Inception and Next Steps,” discussed the importance of workforce programs to address forest industry labor shortages and the need to actively engage and educate high school students and teachers about the array of available career opportunities. Les also spoke about the efforts of the National Forest Operations Training Coalition, whose members include workforce training programs across the U.S.

Rebecca Barnard, Forestry Certification Manager for Sappi North America (SNA), provided an overview of the new European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) and a summary of SNA’s innovative approach to addressing geolocation requirements. Rebecca explained the technical details of the regulation and its impacts on procurement operations. The presentation highlighted the need for the forest products industry to not over-complicate matters nor rely on others’ assumptions of the regulation’s scope or requirements but rather unite on shared understandings and approaches. Click Here to connect with Rebecca for more information about her presentation. 

Jeff Widmer, Senior Business Consultant at Trimble, presented on technology that can be used to aid EUDR compliance. EUDR has the potential to strain relationships between wood suppliers and wood-using mills, and we need to work together effectively to address this issue. Click Here to connect with Jeff for more information about his presentation. 

Haroon Syed, Vice President of Dedicated Services, Schneider, kicked off the National Operations Committee Meeting with a presentation on “Changing the Narrative: Safety and Sustainability.” Haroon shared Schneider’s history in the forest products transportation sector, discussed Schneider’s carbon emission reduction efforts, enlightened attendees on the “messy middle” during their path to achieving the company’s sustainability goals, and discussed Schneider’s rigorous safety standards and how the company has implemented an impressive program to encourage better health care practices for their associates. Click Here to connect with Haroon for more information about his presentation.

Adam Smith, USDA Forest Service, presented “Wood Innovations Program: Impacts and Opportunities.” He spoke about three core funding opportunities (https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/energy-forest-products/wood-innovation) available to forest industries, with as much as $1.5 million available for projects: the Wood Innovation Grant, Community Wood Grants, and the Wood Products Infrastructure Assistance. These programs, which are expected to begin taking applications in October, focus on mass timber, biomass (power, biofuels, and biochar), workforce development, feedstock sustainability, and communications. Smith encouraged FRA members and the industries members work with to consider applying for funding through these programs.

FRA’s National Committees and the THATS Foundation met, developing recommendations based on these presentations and other reports. 

National Public Policy/Advocacy Committee
Following the speaker session on workforce and the EUDR, the policy committee held its business meeting, where they approved nominations for the 2024-2026 policy committee. Outgoing Committee Chair Bill Johnson (Johnson Timber Corp.) welcomed Gabe Crane (Roseburg Forest Products) and Jenni Galiotto (LP Building Solutions) as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively. The committee also shared its proposed changes to the Strategic Plan:

  • Place issues relating to labor under the workforce heading, including improving access to labor/Jobs in the Woods Act, independent contractor status, and H-2B guestworker visas. 
  • The transportation priority was updated with additional text, and deletions were made in areas no longer germane.
  • The Farm Bill was updated with the most current information, and text was deleted that was no longer relevant.
  • Biomass language was updated to include pursuing a definition of carbon-neutral forest-based biomass.
  • The item climate change legislation was broadened to include a more active role of forest management as a solution to the changing climate.

National Operations Committee
During the National Operations Committee Business Meeting, there was a discussion on the Strategic Plan and how the recent economic climate has shifted the committee’s focus and priorities with this year’s version of the plan. Forest Market Support and Promotion is a unanimous top priority item for the committee over the next two years. Several projects and tactics from the 2022-2024 strategic plan have been retained but reprioritized to better reflect the committee’s commitment to address current supply chain issues, challenges, and concerns.

FRA successfully acted on two action items stemming from last year’s Operations Committee Meeting in Point Clear, AL. These include training 27 attendees at the 52nd FRA Timber Harvesting & Procurement Short Course in December 2023 and partnering with the North Carolina Forestry Association and the Carolina Loggers Association to be a Gold Level Sponsor at their Logging Cost Analysis course last October.

Outgoing Committee Chair Chris Lunde (Port Blakely) welcomed Shaney Neuharth (Weyerhaeuser) and Jim Hoppe (Packaging Corp. of America) as the new Committee Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively.

National Supplier/Consumer Relations Committee
Following the presentation by Trimble on ways that technology can be harnessed to aid EUDR compliance, the committee business meeting took place. The committee shared its proposed changes  to the Strategic Plan:

  • Adding mill workers to ongoing efforts to support workforce development for loggers and truckers.  All parts of the industry are facing a workforce issue, and it makes sense to support the entire supply chain.
  • Continue to offer Supplier–Consumer Workshops, which remain viable ways for mills and their suppliers to identify issues.
  • The committee added a section on EUDR: EUDR, noting this issue has the potential to stress relationships between suppliers and consumers and the need to look for ways to comply with this and other regulations in a fair and equitable manner that strengthens the entire supply chain.

Bill Guthrie (DS Smith) has served a partial term as Committee Chair, and will continue to serve in this role along with Richard Schwab (MA Rigoni) as Vice-Chair. 

National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety (THATS) Foundation
The Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety (THATS) Foundation committee met and reviewed and approved the minutes and financials for the THATS Foundation. An update was provided by Chair Wes Miller (A.M. Logging) for the PA SFI SIC grant received to develop an online platform for logger training in PA. This project will provide loggers with the flexibility of online training to meet SFI training requirements and will be completed by the end of this year. A grant request from Mississippi State University was submitted for consideration by the Foundation. This project will fund three workshops around the state to inform and train log trucking businesses how to use and benefit from on-board truck camera systems. Introducing camera technology should increase safety, help prevent accidents, improve safety records, and stabilize insurance costs. 

Foundation members reviewed the ‘Six Rules for Logging Safety’ initiative. The safety kits include a poster with the six rules for logging safety, stickers, and trinkets as reminders to work safely. The first kits will be sent to all FRA Association members and anyone who donated $500 or more to the THATS Foundation in the last three years. Finally, outgoing Chair Miller welcomed incoming Chair Steve Barnett (BITCO).

National Awards Dinner 
During the April 30 National Awards Dinner, FRA outgoing Chairman Pete Stewart (ResourceWise) was recognized for his strong leadership, unwavering commitment, and clear vision for the association and the industry.

Retirees Dr. Dale Greene, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Dr. Tom Gallagher, Emeritus Professor of Forest Operations, Auburn Universityand Chris Becklean, International Paper, were presented with FRA Honorary Lifetime Memberships and recognized for their dedication and services to the industry. 

Dr. Eric McConnell, an Associate Professor at Mississippi State University, was present to accept the FRA 2024 National Technical Writing Award for his Technical Release, “Forestry and Inflation: Friends or Foes?”

Alan, Nate, Lucas, and Logan Metzler with Metzler Forest Products of Reedsville, PA, were recognized as the 2024 National Outstanding Logger award recipients and presented with a plaque and check by Jim Habacker, Territory Manager, Bryan Equipment Sales, Inc., and STIHL distributor. STIHL has generously sponsored this important award for over 30 years. 

Finally, the THATS 2024 online and live auctions raised $9,810 during this year’s meeting. Foundation members and FRA would like to thank everyone who donated and bid, and a special thanks to Richard Schwab for another stellar performance as auctioneer!   

At the May 1 Board of Directors Meeting, attendees:

  • Reviewed FRA’s financial performance over the past fiscal year and approved the FY 2024-2025 budget. FRA remains in a good financial position with healthy reserves.  
  • Heard the report from the April 29 FRA Executive Committee Meeting, including an overview of the work of the association this past year. This included successes on the public policy front, developments in membership communications, a summary of FRA’s strong region activity, and a membership report reviewing the eighteen new member companies since May 2023. 
  • Reviewed reports from FRA’s National Committees and the THATS Foundation.
  • Approved the FRA 2024-2026 Strategic Plan
  • Heard the Meetings Advisory Group report on upcoming meetings: FRA’s Fall Meeting will be in conjunction with the Western Region Meeting, October 1-3, at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, Coeur d’Alene, ID. The 2025 Annual Meeting will be held in conjunction with the Southeast Region Spring Meeting, May 5-7, at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Miramar Beach, FL. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend.
  • Finally, following the approval of the 2024-2026 FRA Board of Directors at the April 30 Annual Member Meeting, the 2024-2026 Executive Committee and National Committees were elected. FRA is thrilled to announce Josh Sandt, Canfor, as FRA 2024-2026 Chairman of the Board. 

FRA Southcentral Region Spring Meeting
The 2024 Southcentral Region (SCR) Spring Meeting took place ahead of the Annual Meeting on April 29, with SCR Steering Committee Chair James Edelen (LP) honoring the region’s award recipients. Dr. Eric McConnell, Associate Professor at Mississippi State University, was on hand to accept the 2024 Technical Writing Award for his Technical Release titled “Forestry and Inflation: Friends or Foes?”. Eric’s winning article examines the inflationary impacts on timber price returns from two Southern forestry perspectives. Josh Lewis and his wife, Taylor, were also in attendance for the 2024 SCR Outstanding Logger Award. Josh graciously accepted the award on behalf of his entire family and the Lewis Timber team. Lewis Timber, Inc. was founded by Brian Lewis in 2013 and is based in Aliceville, AL. 

The SCR Spring Meeting also featured a strong line-up of speakers. Derek Ratchford, CEO of SmartLam North America, delivered an excellent presentation on Smartlam’s US Operations and the Future of Cross-laminated Timber/Mass Timber. The Technical Session also included a panel discussion from Drs. Dale Greene (Georgia), Tom Gallagher (Auburn), and Joe Conrad (Georgia) on FRA’s role in providing continuing education opportunities for its members and how the successful Timber Harvesting & Procurement Short Course could be a great model for future collaboration with stakeholders. Candace Dinwiddie (Executive Director – Tennessee Forestry Association) and Heather Slayton (State Forester and Asst. Commissioner – Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry) shared the details of Tennessee’s highly successful logging safety grant program between their two organizations with their presentation Innovative Approach to Promote Logger Safety. Finally, Rebecca Barnard – 2024 Society of American Foresters President, discussed SAF’s Strategic Plan Goals and shared her presidential priorities with meeting attendees.

Continuing Education Credits
The combined FRA 2024 Southcentral Region and Annual Meetings was approved for 9.0 Category 1 and 0.5 Category 2 SAF CFE credits, and sign-in sheets have been submitted to the SAF national office. Please reach out if you have questions regarding obtaining credit for your meeting attendance.

Meeting Sponsors
Thank you to the FRA 2024 Annual Meeting sponsors – this meeting would not have been possible without your financial support. This was another strong year for sponsorship, and we are incredibly thankful for your support.