Issue Update 12/19/18

As we close out 2018 and reflect on the year, there is much for which to be thankful. On the public policy front this month alone, the wood products value chain gained some key wins with the passage of the Farm Bill. President Trump is expected to sign that legislation tomorrow, which includes provisions promoting wood products in tall buildings, additional tools for the U.S. Forest Service to better manage our national forests, and enhancements to programs that promote the use of wood-derived fuels for heat and power. In January, FRA will be providing a complete review of our advocacy efforts in 2018 as well as a look forward to what is in store for 2019.

FRA has worked hard throughout the year trying to enact meaningful guestworker visa reform. We endured a few failed votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, despite aggressive advocacy from a formidable coalition of forestry, agricultural and other stakeholders that rely on guestworkers. In the last few weeks, it appeared that there would be a real opportunity to enact language that would double the H-2B cap and qualifying forestry workers under the H-2A program as part of a year-end government appropriations deal. As Congress prepares today to vote on a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded into early February, that opportunity has faded for now. The CR will be free of any policy riders such as guestworker reform.

We remain undaunted, however. After a short break for the holidays, Team FRA will hit the ground running in January to push for guestworker reform to be included when appropriations discussions resume early next year. We will also be working with the H-2B coalition to encourage the Department of Homeland Security to release the remaining visas since we have already hit the cap. Guestworkers are important for our commitment to sustainability, and guestworker reform is a critical issue confronting employers in predominantly rural communities. We need to get this done, and we thank FRA members who have answered our many requests this year to reach out to your Members of Congress on this issue. We will no doubt be asking for your help again as we enter the New Year.

Thank you for a productive 2018, and we at FRA wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2019.