Forest Resources Association says it has saved the U.S. wood supply chain US$145M by defending reforestation guestworker status

ROCKVILLE, Maryland , May 10, 2010 (press release) – Timely action by the Forest Resources Association's National Forestry Contractors Task Group has saved the U.S. wood supply chain an estimated $145 million in annual reforestation costs, by successfully opposing the U.S. Department of Labor's proposal to transfer reforestation guestworkers from the H-2B visa program to the more burdensome H-2A program. The Department of Labor announced the favorable outcome this spring.

"This decision comes at a time of widespread concern about a decline in treeplanting nationwide," commented FRA President Richard Lewis. "Preserving reforestation contractors' ability to respond flexibly to the logistical realities of ensuring timely reforestation and related stand-improvement tasks will keep us on track as a competitive industry."

U.S. reforestation draws heavily on guest workers brought in from Mexico and Central America through a special work visa program which the Department of Labor regulates.

In FRA's submitted comment to the record on DOL's proposal, Lewis pointed out that the H-2A visa program, directed toward conventional farm work, does not have the flexibility to deal with the special needs of treeplanting, brush clearing, and precommercial thinning. He noted that the need to determine work locations and working hours, and to schedule inspected housing, months in advance of actual work, ignores the logistical decisions that must often be made within very short time-frames, because of weather and other variables.

FRA's statement also observed that guestworkers employed in reforestation under the H-2B program are already covered under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Workers Protection Act (MSPA), which addresses basic issues of housing, sanitation, and fair treatment.

The Department of Labor has stated that it will also revise the H-2B guestworker visa program rules in 2010. FRA's National Forestry Contractors Task Group is organizing now to participate in this Rulemaking process as well.

The Forest Resources Association Inc. is a nonprofit trade association concerned with the safe, efficient, and sustainable harvest of forest products and their transport from woods to mill. FRA represents wood consumers, independent logging contractors, and wood dealers, as well as businesses providing products and services to the forest resource-based industries.

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