Issue Update 11/30/18

Senate and House leaders negotiating final terms on a new Farm Bill announced this week that a tentative deal has been reached. Negotiations have been tied up on disagreements over work requirements for food stamp recipients and, more recently, over federal forest management provisions in the House-passed bill. The logjam was broken late this week with negotiators evidently agreeing to include a small subset of the forest management reforms and discarding most of what was included in the House version. While these provisions enjoyed support in the House, they threatened to kill  the bill in the Senate. What we have been told is that the final deal includes an extension of Good Neighbor Authority and a couple of new tools for the Forest Service to use in managing our federal forestlands. As soon as text is available, we will provide a summary.

FRA has also been working with our forestry and forest product coalition members on provisions promoting the use of wood in taller buildings. The final deal is expected to include tall wood building language, but it remains unclear whether it will be the stronger provision that industry supports that was included in the Senate-passed bill. Also unclear is the approach that the Farm Bill’s Energy Title will take. There are a number of programs in this title that encourage the use of forest-based biomass energy for heat and power.  

Again, we should see the text of the deal in the coming days and remain optimistic that a Farm Bill will pass and be signed by the President before the end of 2018. 

Immigration/Guestworker Reform

A deal appears to be coming together to provide guestworker relief for FRA members and other employers that rely on this valuable labor pool. Provisions of the deal include an increase in the H-2B cap as well as including forestry workers under the H-2A program. The deal would hitch a ride on the larger government funding package which is now being negotiated. Current funding for the government expires on December 7.  

This would be a huge win for our sector if we can get this language enacted. Please take a moment to contact your legislators today.  

Trade

Earlier today, President Trump and the leaders of Canada and Mexico signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade pact intended to replace the 1994 North American Trade Agreement.  Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the proposed agreement at the G-20 summit in Argentina.

The deal, which now heads to Congress for a vote under Trade Promotion Authority, gives the president latitude to negotiate trade deals. Lawmakers can approve or reject the agreement, but amendments are not permitted. Until Congress acts, the current NAFTA between the three nations remains in effect.