On September 17-19, FRA hosted members from across the country for our biennial Fly-In and Fall Board Meeting. We met with a total of 95 congressional offices of which 45 were with Members of Congress. We also saw an increase in FRA Members and Emerging Leaders attending the Fly-In, with almost 70 in attendance representing 41 companies from all segments of the supply chain, and 14 emerging leaders. We want to thank everyone who made the trip to Washington.
Meetings with congressional offices provided a great opportunity to advance our priority policy issues and to educate legislators and their staff on the importance of the wood supply chain:
- Safe Routes Act: During the fly-in, Congressman Gallagher’s staff received multiple calls from Republicans to cosponsor the Safe Routes Act. Some will remain in a holding pattern as our efforts continue to secure additional Democrats. The goal is to move a bi-partisan bill. One such success is Congressman Schrader (D-OR-5) has become a cosponsor, which is a direct result of the Western Group’s meeting with the Congressman.
- Biomass Carbon Neutrality: Yesterday the Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee moved legislation that has language which recognizes the carbon neutrality of forest-based biomass. This addition aligns with the goal of our fly-in. The success in the Senate is vital as the Senate and House eventually will begin negotiations in the conference committee.
- H-2B visas: The H-2B visas issue continues to be caught up in the broader immigration debate. The fly-in was a great opportunity for our members to educate Members on this issue. One of the most promising meetings was with Senator Merkley (D-OR), who has been an outspoken opponent to the use of non-immigrant workers to plant trees. The Senator stated during our fly-in that he has changed his mind on the issue and realizes that during times of low unemployment there is a need for non-immigrant workers in forestry.
- Pete Watson, President and CEO, Greif, Inc. discussed the importance of being politically engaged, and why advocating Members of Congress and their staff on priority policy issues is essential to the competitiveness of the wood supply chain. In addition, Pete Watson and Heidi Brock, new President & CEO of American Forest & Paper Association participated in FRA’s Executive Committee Meeting.
- Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8), author and champion of the FRA backed Safe Routes Act spoke about the safety aspect of the legislation of allowing log trucks access to an interstate route when available. The Congressman stated that the Safe Routes Act is a top priority for his office, and he will work with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to have the language in the original text of the Surface Transportation legislation. FRA’s efforts during the fly-in directly resulted in adding cosponsors to the Safe Routes Act.
- David Drucker, Senior Political Correspondent, The Washington Examiner talked about the 2020 election campaign, sharing stories and observations from the trail.
- Mark Toal, National Veteran’s Employment Manager, U.S. Department of Labor, was a dynamic speaker offering tips on how the forest products industry can best engage with Veterans.
FRA’s National Committees also met during this time:
The Operations Committee briefly discussed the key issues common to the majority of FRA’s six geographic regions: Multiple trucking challenges, labor shortages, and workforce training and development needs for logging and trucking. Miranda Gowell, TEAM Safe Trucking’s Special Projects Manager, reported that there were now approximately 3,500 active users accessing the training materials on the TEAM Safe Trucking website and that several forestry and logging associations as well as insurance companies and large wood suppliers were fully engaged in the program.
The Supplier / Consumer Relations Committee heard from Mark Toal with the U.S. Department of Labor about the opportunity – and pathways – to hire Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. His presentation focused on connecting with local resources and establishing approved apprenticeship programs that can help transition Veterans into the forest industry workforce.
At the September 19 Board of Directors Meeting, attendees:
- Reviewed FRA’s financial performance year to date;
- Approved the FY 2018-2019 audit report;
- Received information on FRA efforts since May 1 to support the new FRA Vision, Mission and Values statement (attached);
- Reviewed reports from FRA’s National Committees;
- Heard the Meeting Advisory Committee report on upcoming meetings: FRA’s 2020 Annual Meeting to be held at the Omni Austin Downtown in Austin, TX, May 18-20, and the 2020 Fall Board Meeting will take place October 13-15 at the Westin Portland Harborview in Portland, ME
Dinner with Appalachian Region Awards
The following were recognized at the Dinner with Appalachian Region Awards:
- Technical Writing Award First Place
18-R-27 USDA Web Soil Surveys Aid Harvest & Wood Procurement Planning
Rob Kidd, Huber Engineered Woods
- 2019 Appalachian Region Outstanding Logger Award (Sponsored by STIHL)
Glotfelty Lumber Co., Inc.
The following retiring FRA members were also recognized:
- Tom Harris, TimberMart-South
- Bud DeLano, Ahlstrom Munksjo
Thank you to those who were able to attend, and we look forward to seeing you at the FRA 2020 Annual Meeting, May 18-20 in Austin, TX.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS