Workforce Getty Forester
Policy

Workforce

Seasonal non-immigrant guestworker reform is a top advocacy priority for FRA members. The forest products industry relies heavily on foreign guestworkers to supplement our U.S. workforce to sustain forests, collect pine straw, improve timber stands, and manage vegetation.

Why FRA Supports H-2B Reform

Because this work is usually seasonal, and because tree planting crews are itinerant without connection to a community, domestic workers are typically not interested in these jobs. The Congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 H-2B visas is inadequate to meet the labor needs of seasonal businesses, including H-2B forestry workers. With anticipated increased demand for tree planting over the next five years, it is important that accessibility to H-2B guestworkers be improved.

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Key Facts on H-2B Reform

1.
The forestry sector relies on seasonal H-2B forestry workers when there are not enough available U.S. workers to fill these short-term, remote, and itinerant jobs.
2.
The Congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 H-2B visas is inadequate to meet the labor needs of seasonal businesses. Currently, demand exceeds the cap of 66,000 visas by two to three times.
3.
Every H-2B worker supports an additional 4.6 American jobs and contributes to the economy of rural forest-dependent communities.
4.
A 2020 Government Accountability Office report concluded that “counties with H-2B employers generally had lower unemployment rates and higher average weekly wages than counties that do not have any H-2B employers.
5.
Every H-2B forestry worker supports an additional 4.6 American jobs and contributes to the economy of rural forest-dependent communities.
6.
Before receiving H-2B guest workers, businesses are required to advertise the available jobs to U.S. workers. In FY 2020, the number of U.S. workers who applied for these forestry jobs was only enough to fill two percent of the available positions.
7.
H-2B forestry workers plant more than 85% of the trees on public and private forestland each year. That amounts to planting 1.5 billion trees on nearly 2.2 million acres.
8.
More H-2B forestry workers will be needed to replant trees on forest lands devastated by wildfires and hurricanes in 2020-2021 and to address worker shortages brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there is an estimated three- to five-year tree planting backlog.
9.
Sixty percent of the employers of H-2B forestry workers stated that they anticipate their labor needs to increase in the next one- to three-years. Seventy-three percent said there would not be enough H-2B visas available to meet their tree-planting needs.
10.
The percentage of businesses who did not receive visas for all the H-2B forestry workers they requested doubled from 16% in FY 2019 to 32% in FY 2020.

Policy Objectives

FRA supports FY 2022 appropriations language that provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the authority to release additional H-2B visas in an efficient and timely manner.

FRA also supports permanent H-2B cap relief as a standalone measure or part of other relevant immigration legislation in the House and the Senate. FRA endorses two bills introduced in the 117th Congress. These are:

H-2B’s Importance to the Forest Products Industry

Resources

Technical Releases

Auburn University’s New Online Master Of Forest Business And Investments Program Offers Advanced Degree To Working Professionals

Technical Releases

Initial Effects of COVID-19 on U.S. Forest Sector

Technical Releases

State Resources for Workforce Development

Technical Releases

Assessing the Impact of the Presidential Proclamation Suspending the Entry of H-2B Guest Workers into the United States: How Forestry Benefited by Being Recognized in the National Interest Exemption

Technical Releases

Faces of the Forest Educates the Public on Forest Management, Papermaking, and Community

Technical Releases

The Forest Products Industry’s Use of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans

Safety Alerts

Forest Crew Worker Electrocuted While Trying to Cut Tree Fallen on High-Voltage Power Line

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Logger Seriously Injured by Falling Chipper Knives

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Employee Crushes Finger in Feller-Buncher Door

Background On an overcast winter day in the Southcentral Region, a…

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Mechanic Injured While Changing Dual Tires on Feller-Buncher

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Following Too Closely Results in Serious Collision

Background On a late spring day in the Pacific Northwest, two…

Safety Alerts

Cable Yarder Operator Dies When Caught in Drive Shaft

Background On a winter day in the Pacific Northwest, a cable…

Presentations

Drivers Wanted – Using Data to Understand the Commercial Truck Driver Shortage

Presentations

Building a Diverse and Resilient Workforce

Presentations

Retaining and Developing Your Workforce

Presentations

H-2B Workers The Critical Role They Play in Sustaining US Forests

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Policy Accomplishments in 2020

View workforce policy accomplishments made in 2020

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Wood Texture

Resources

View reports of technical innovations, public outreach strategies, woodlands safety and security case studies about the forest resources community.

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FRA Supports Your Ongoing Commitment to Environmental Performance and Socially Responsible Governance.
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