FRA Grassroots Action Alerts
FRA has two active action alerts that allow you to contact your Representative and Senators to urge them to co-sponsor legislation that FRA promotes.
The Jobs in the Woods Act (H.R. 5344, S. 3063) is bipartisan legislation that would provide grants to existing and new workforce training programs for the forestry sector. To contact your Representative and Senators, click here.
The Safe Routes Act (H.R. 2493, S.1818) would allow trucks hauling logs, pulpwood, chips, or biomass access to the interstate for short distances at legal state weights. This legislation improves safety, efficiency, and lowers the carbon footprint of hauling raw forest materials. To contact your Representative and Senators, click here.
2023_FRA Issue Brief-Jobs in the Woods
FRA-Supported Transportation Research Published
The International Journal of Forest Engineering has published FRA-supported transportation research that was conducted in the Lakes States. An assessment of the safety and efficiency of log trucks with increased weight limits on interstate highways in Wisconsin and Minnesota, USA, assessed the safety and efficiency of transporting raw forest materials on the interstate system and legal state truck weight limits. The abstract of the research is below. The research paper can be found here.
Design standards for the Federal Interstate Highway System in the US are generally higher than those on other roads within most states, making it the safest road system in the US. Federal law prevents states from enforcing vehicle weight limits on interstate highways that deviate from established Federal weight limits or state-specific grandfathered weight limits or exceptions. As a result, trucks hauling logs at state-legal limits must travel on other roads, passing through towns/ cities and school zones where they may encounter on-coming traffic and intersections. All these encounters increase the risk of an accident. This study compared fatality rates of log trucks to other heavy trucks in the lower 48 states, road damage cost estimates for interstate and non-interstate roads and assessed the impact of relaxing interstate weight limits on various factors for hauling logs along three travel corridors in Wisconsin and Minnesota, USA. On a per-load basis, log trucks have a lower fatality rate than other heavy trucks in 83% of the lower 48 states. Due to the higher design standards, pavement damage costs are lowest on interstate highways as compared to other road types. Allowing state-legal, loaded log trucks access to federal interstate highways would improve the overall safety and efficiency of timber transportation and reduce pavement damage costs and CO2 emissions within the study areas. Overall, the study findings suggest that allowing state-legal, loaded log trucks to operate on interstate highways would improve the safety and efficiency of timber transportation in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Forest Service Engagement Session-Mature and Old-Growth Forests
The Forest Service will host an industry-only engagement session on November 8, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM EST, to share information about the initial analysis and threats to mature and old-growth forests, as required by Executive Order 14072 Section 2c (ii) and next steps. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and share your perspectives and experiences about mature and old-growth forests on the National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management lands. If you would like to participate in the meeting, please register here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email and Zoom meeting link. Be sure to check your spam and junk folders. If you cannot locate a link, email Wendy Landry at email@example.com for assistance. Please note, the meeting has a participant cap of 1,000, so register early!
Environmental Protection Agency
The Biden Administration this week urged the Supreme Court not to block the “good neighbor” rule limiting interstate ozone-forming emissions from power plants (including biomass) and other sources that include pulp and paper mills in some states. The rule went into effect in August, and since then, several states have requested a stay on the rule’s implementation. Three states and various companies and industry groups earlier this month asked the Supreme Court for relief after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to stay the rule. The final rule impacted 23 states. Since that time, 12 states have been issued stays on implementation of the rule in various circuit courts.
FRA Signs Letter Opposing Change to EPA Standards
FRA, along with 70 other association leaders, signed a letter to President Biden requesting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintain current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter. The proposed rule would lower the emission standard for fine particulate matter, putting nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population out of compliance and making it more difficult to obtain permits for new manufacturing facilities.
In a social media post, FRA’s President Keith Gray said, “FRA is concerned about this proposed EPA rule and its impact on the wood supply chain. This change could have serious consequences that will inhibit future growth of the forest products industry and negatively impact rural forest-based economies.”
The House and Senate have been working to pass appropriations bills. The House this week passed the Legislative Branch and the EPA and Interior Department spending bills, which is the seventh spending measure passed by the lower chamber and the third passed since Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA-4) was voted in as House Speaker. The Senate passed minibus Wednesday afternoon, nearly two months after the measure cleared its first legislative hurdle in the upper chamber. Senators approved the $280 billion funding that combines the Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills. Both the House and Senate will need to pivot to a second Continuing Resolution (CR) as it is unlikely the two chambers will resolve differences prior to November 17, when the current stopgap measure expires.
Senators Padilla (D-CA) and Graham (R-SC) are planning to introduce legislation in the coming days affecting the H-2B program. The bill, the Seasonal Employment Protection Act of 2023, provides cap relief for the H-2B visa program. The legislation is controversial as it includes provisions that ban certain sectors from using the H-2B program, which includes the multifamily and commercial construction industry. The legislation also provides additional enforcement measures to the Department of Labor and would ban employers with willful or repeat law violations. The pros of the legislation include increasing the cap from 66,000 to 125,000, which can increase or decrease based on the unemployment rate, and providing an exemption to the cap for an employer that has participated in the H-2B program for the highest number of H-2B workers received in a single application over the last five years. The bill also exempts several industries from the H-2B cap, such as the seafood industry, equine industry, and seasonal workers in rural areas primarily benefiting seasonal resorts. FRA is currently taking a neutral position on the legislation and will work to include forestry as an exempt industry in the bill.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor announced a temporary final rule that makes available 64,716 additional H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year 2024. These visas are in addition to the 66,000 H-2B visas already available, bringing the total number of H-2B visas that will be available over the course of FY 2024 to 130,716. Read the official announcement here.
Seasonal Employment Protection Act of 2023 Text
Section by Section Summary
FRA H-2B Issue Brief
The Michigan Senate passed legislation (SB 271) this week that would phase out biomass as a clean energy source by 2040. Biomass is not considered a qualified renewable energy source in the legislation. The bill that cleared the Michigan Senate was revised from its original version and now allows biomass-derived energy from existing facilities. The measure will now go to the Michigan House for consideration.
On the Federal front, the full House is voting today on a Fiscal Year 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Included in this measure is FRA’s long-supported language directing the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy to recognize the carbon-neutral nature of forest-based biomass fuels and energy in any policymaking these agencies propose in the energy and environmental space. The measure is expected to pass. The Senate’s Interior bill also includes this language.
As we have noted, FRA is also working to have similar but more binding language included in the Farm Bill reauthorization legislation. We are making progress on that front and will keep you apprised of developments.
The next looming deadline for Congress is November 17 when the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) funding government operations expires. Newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA-4) has pitched the concept of a roughly two-month CR to fund the government through January 15. That would theoretically give enough time for the House to pass its 12 appropriations bills. The Senate is tacking in a different direction with plans to pass a CR that would fund the government through December 15. At this point, it appears that the Senate’s position will prevail. The path forward is complicated by the fact that leadership in the two chambers has different plans for funding items, such as the conflict in Ukraine and the situation in Israel, among other areas. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have made it clear that they believe aid to Ukraine is critical and want to pair that with funds for Israel and money for Taiwan. Speaker Johnson has insisted that he does not have the votes in the House to pass legislation assisting Israel that includes money for Ukraine.
It is hard to envision a scenario where Congress would let the government shut down, given all that is happening around the world, but if the past is prologue, negotiations on a spending measure will continue right up to the deadline on November 17.
The National Association of Manufacturers led a letter that was sent to Capitol Hill this week urging action on the package of business tax benefit extensions that is currently pending on the House floor. That may be found here. FRA is listed under those organizations located in Washington, D.C.
The package—for which FRA is also advocating—would extend through 2025 the 100 percent bonus depreciation benefit, which began ratcheting down this year. It would also retroactively extend the research and development tax credit, which phased out in 2022, as well as restore more generous interest deductibility provisions (interest deductions based on Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) instead of the current EBIT standard). With the election of a new Speaker of the House, we are hopeful for action on this package by year’s end.
PRICING NOTICE: Discontinuing the PIX US NBSK Pulp (North America) Index
On November 2, 2023, Fastmarkets FOEX asked for feedback from the industry on the proposal to discontinue its PIX US NBSK Pulp (North America) index. Fastmarkets asks that participants submit comments on whether they support/do not support discontinuing the current PIX NBSK Pulp (North America) by May 31, 2024.
Please send responses and comments in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “PIX US NBSK Pulp.”
Please note in your response if you’d like your feedback to be confidential. Fastmarkets will publish the outcome by December 28, 2023, on the Fastmarkets FOEX website under Pricing Notices, including a summary of the feedback with the exception of those marked as confidential.