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Hardwood Federation October 2018 Newsletter

 From the Executive Director:  A Historic Midterm Election is Here

In one week, the nation will head to the polls for the 2018 mid-term elections.  Interest, energy and emotion are high regarding this election and political pundits, professional and amateur are poring over polls and making predictions.  The most asked question I get when addressing hardwood industry meetings is “who will win?”  I always defer that answer to the professionals…but as anyone that even casually follows politics knows, not much is clear about the 2018 cycle.

What is clear to us in D.C. is that on January 3, 2019 a new Congress will be sworn into office and take their seats.  The 116th Congress will, regardless of which party controls the House and Senate, see an influx of new faces.  On the House side, 57 of the 435 seats up for election are open…meaning that the incumbent is retiring and regardless of which party wins, a new member will be elected.  We will also see a significant number of Committee chairmen step down to retire or run for higher office. 

In the Senate, there are only three open seats (Arizona, Tennessee and Utah…all currently held by Republicans).  However, it is fair to say that regardless of the inevitable surprises and upsets, there will be a significant number of new Members of Congress and staff to educate about the Hardwood industry and our impacts on local, state and national economies.

As a non-partisan organization, we are not taking sides on any race.  But we remain firmly on the side of the Hardwood industry.  We are already developing strategies for outreach regardless of the election outcome.  And we still have an important lame duck session to work through.  Moving the Farm Bill forward and securing funding for vital export promotion programs are our highest priorities.  Look for our post-election analysis next week…and be sure to cast your vote on Tuesday!  Regardless of your party affiliation or 2018 preference, your voice does matter.  And with this election too close to call in many cases, it could make the difference.

Issues

Farm Bill

We remain hopeful that House and Senate conferees can come together after next week’s election and conclude final negotiations on a new Farm Bill during the upcoming Lame Duck session of Congress.   Lead staff for the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have been meeting regularly to find common ground across the number of issues where the House and Senate-passed Farm Bills differ.  

The Hardwood Federation’s highest priority since the current Farm Bill expired September 30 is to ensure that our export promotion programs are fully funded and will continue to operate at full strength in 2019.   As we have reported, the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program lost baseline funding after September due to an arcane Congressional Budget Office directive was enforced that affects all programs in the Farm Bill that are authorized at less than $50 million per year.   We have been making the rounds on Capitol Hill targeting Members of Congress that were appointed to the conference committee.   Our visits have emphasized the importance of the FMD program in helping small to medium sized business in sectors like ours to open up markets overseas.   FMD and MAP both enjoy widespread support and will be fully authorized and funded if Congress can send a final bill to the President before the end of the year.   An alternative scenario is that the current Farm Bill will be extended if conferees cannot forge a final deal.   If this occurs, FMD will still have no funding because it falls below the $50 million threshold.   We have been discussing this scenario with offices and advocating that appropriations be included in any extension measure that allows FMD to operate through the duration of any extension bill that is enacted.   The situation is fluid but your Hardwood Federation team is working hard to secure a favorable outcome in the next couple of months.

Timber Innovation Act

On October 23, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on the Hill titled “Wood: The Building Material of the Future?”  EESI was founded in 1984 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to inform the debate on energy and environmental policy at the federal level.  Your Hardwood Federation team was on hand at the briefing, which was held in a packed committee hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office building. 

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) kicked off the briefing via video conference in which he extolled the virtues of cross laminated timber and other innovative wood products as being a promising market driver for timber in states like Maine that are heavily forested.  He noted that he is a Timber Innovation Act cosponsor and co-chairs the Working Forests Caucus in the Senate with Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID).  

King was followed by Melissa Jenkins, who is the mass timber portfolio team leader at the U.S. Forest Service.  Melissa emphasized that the Forest Service is excited about the market-creating potential of mass timber as a way to address the nation’s overstocked forests.  She noted that CLT production is expanding in the U.S. with new facilities coming on line from Montana to Maine.  

Craig Rawlings from the Forest Business Network was next and he highlighted a number of project examples, including the hardwood CLT display in Columbus, Indiana.  Craig noted that the movement toward mass timber is the most exciting development in his 40 year career.  The simple fact that smaller diameter trees can be used to make panels creates benefits for forest health and for land managers that need markets for low grade timber.   

Architect Susan Jones was next on the panel to speak.  She emphasized that the reason architects are increasingly interested in mass timber is its lower carbon footprint.  A mid-rise project is 15-20 percent less carbon intensive than a traditionally-built steal or concrete structure.  In addition to its carbon sequestering benefits, the aesthetic that these buildings create is superior.  She noted that the priority for architects is for the commercial building codes to accept CLT and other mass timber products and that process is occurring now.  In fact, the International Codes Council is considering changes this Fall to its codes to accommodate mass timber for its next code publication.  

Finally, Jeff Morrow concluded the session with a perspective from the construction manager standpoint.  Morrow’s firm, LendLease, favors mass timber for sites where soil conditions are poor and labor costs are high.  CLT is versatile and lighter than traditional commercial construction materials and generally easier to work with at the construction site. 

The bottom line is that this briefing was helpful in in our continuing education efforts with Capitol Hill staff about the attributes and benefits of this promising new wood product application that has the potential to help virtually all aspects of the forest products value chain.

Tariffs

As we all know, many companies in the hardwood sector are suffering negative impacts from the ongoing trade dispute with China.  The Hardwood Federation is part of the Americans for Free Trade Coalition (AFT), a bipartisan coalition representing U.S. manufacturers, farmers and agribusinesses, retailers, technology companies, service suppliers, natural gas and oil companies, importers, exporters, and other supply chain stakeholders, who are united in their concern about the negative impacts of the new tariffs, imposed by both the U.S. and our trading, will have on U.S. businesses, workers and consumers. AFT recognizes that there are issues that need to be addressed with key trading partners, however, they also believe the far-reaching impacts of using tariffs as a tool to make corrections must be considered. AFT also holds regular meetings for trade related advocacy groups and individuals so that we may share information and coordinate Congressional outreach and is a great source of information and insight for Hardwood Federation staff.

In order to build a unified advocacy campaign, AFT has joined with Farmers for Free Trade Coalition to create the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland Campaign which collects trade related data, assembles testimonials from individuals and companies, organizes trade events around the country and conducts outreach to the public and the media. If you are interested in sharing your experience with THH, please let Dana or Cary know and we will be happy to connect you.  For more information, you may explore their website at http://tariffshurt.com/

Endangered Species Act

The House Natural Resources Committee passed a package of multiple bills on Wednesday September 26th that would modernize the Endangered Species Act.  The four bills that were included in passage are H.R. 3608, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act,” H.R. 6346 “The WHOLE Act,” H.R. 6345 “The EMPOWERS Act,” and H.R. 6355 “The PETITION Act”  These bills are meant to fix the listing process, add framework for a clear de-listing process, address the petition backlog issue, remove unnecessary impediments to economic development, involve state and local input, and create a mechanism that facilitates voluntary conservation efforts. 

Longtime HF ally Rep. GT Thompson had this to say about the vote: “Passed 45 years ago, the Endangered Species Act is outdated and in need of modernization. The righteous intention of safeguarding species has been co-opted and become a tool for radical environmentalist to halt land management and limit access to natural resources. The federal government has been forced to spend countless taxpayer dollars combating frivolous lawsuits, rather than directing resources to conservation efforts. This bipartisan package of bills moves us in the right direction to provide much needed transparency and accountability to a meaningful update of the law.”

Wood Innovations Program

On Wednesday October 24th the USDA Forest Service used National Forest Products Week (Oct. 21-27) to announce an initiative to expand their Wood Innovations Program and invest up to an additional $8 million in grants for projects that expand wood product and wood energy markets, reduce wildfire risk, and improve forest health.  The grants will be awarded to projects that boost local economies while making communities safer via hazardous fuels reduction. 
 
Since 2005 over 310 grants have been awarded to small business, non-profits, institutions of higher education, tribes, states, and local governments through the Wood Innovations Program.
 
Information on how to apply is available on the Wood Innovations homepage.  Applications will be accepted through Jan. 23, 2019.

https://www.fs.fed.us/news/releases/usda-forest-service-announces-8-million-expand-wood-products-and-wood-energy-markets

USFS Chief Sworn In

On Thursday October 11th USDA Secretary officially took the “Interim” tag off Vicki Christiansen and swore her in as the 19th Chief of the USDA’s Forest Service.  She had served in the interim capacity since March of this year.  Of Chief Christiansen Secretary Perdue has this to say:

“As a former wildland firefighter and fire manager, Chief Christiansen knows what’s needed to restore our forests and put them back to work for the taxpayers. With seven years at the Forest Service and 30 years with the states of Arizona and Washington, Vicki’s professional experience makes me confident that she will thrive in this role and hit the ground running.”

Happening in the Hardwood World

Indiana Representative visits Frank Miller Lumber Co.

Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN, 9) took some time earlier in October to visit Frank Miller Lumber Co. at their facility in Salem, IN.  While touring the plant HF Board Member Bob Miller said that they were also able to speak a bit about Tariffs and the Farm Bill.

Bob Miller, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, Steve James, and Chris Travis at the Frank Miller Lumber Co. Salem, IN facility.

RTA Turns 100!

Congratulations to the Railway Tie Association which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!  Dana was very pleased to attend their recent meeting in Florida and participate in a panel discussion on the hardwood industry. The Hardwood Federation appreciates the opportunity to be a part of the celebration!

CLT House at Yale

In one of the first instances of CLT being used on a family home, the Yale School of Architecture held a contest of first year students to design and build a home using CLT for low-income families and individuals.  The gorgeous winning entry was debuted in mid-October and the two-story house will be rented out to formerly homeless families through a local non-profit.  IN total the 58 first year students built the house with construction starting in May 2018 and many of them stayed through the summer months to see its completion.

https://www.curbed.com/2018/10/17/17986002/yale-architecture-school-jim-vlock-house-2018

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