Wood is the ultimate green building material. When used for building, it stores carbon, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2011 announced in a news release that “wood should factor as a primary building material in green building…and should be a major component of American building and energy design.” The USDA further noted that the “use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.” USDA should take specific steps to promote wood in the agency’s buildings and serve as a role model across the federal government and for the private sector.
Inclusion of Wood in USDA’s Biobased Markets Program (“Biopreferred”)
Wood is one of the oldest renewable manufacturing materials and is used in hundreds of products such as lumber and panels for building and paper and packaging material. Wood should naturally have the same opportunity as other materials to qualify for the federal procurement preference and product label under United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) biobased program.
Practical Immigration Policies
The H-2B program was created to provide access to nonimmigrant temporary workers for seasonal and peak load needs when no American worker can be found for available positions. The current program is capped at 66,000 visas annually or approximately .04% of the American workforce. Despite this small number, these immigrant workers are critical to many seasonal businesses, including forest management work. The Departments of Homeland Security and Labor manage the visa and worker programs, including minimum wages.
The H-2B visa cap is too low to meet the workforce needs of the sectors that rely on these workers. In addition, Department of Labor regulations associated with employment of these workers has become to complex and costly. Legislation is needed to re-orient the programs to meet the employment needs of seasonal businesses.
The U.S. forest industry is compelled to spend more on per-unit raw material transport than its global competitors do. Enabling a log truck to increase its payload by one sixth could reduce total hauling costs by close to that amount and (conservatively) reduce net cost of transporting raw materials by 5%. Although transport from woods to mill is a relatively brief phase within the wood supply process, it accounts for approximately 30 percent of the total cost of raw material. While technological development has lowered the per-unit cost of harvesting, federal truck weight rules—limiting gross vehicle weight to 80,000 pounds on five axles on the Interstate system—have prevented any savings in basic transport, adding to the overall cost of manufacturing. Many U.S. competitors including Canada, Scandinavia and South America haul under much less restrictive weight rules. Seasonal or freight-specific waivers in certain states demonstrate the safety and increasing gross vehicle weight requirements.