AFRC is taking action on multiple fronts to ensure the forest products industry and its employees can continue to operate and help meet the nation’s needs as local, state and federal governments respond to the global COVID-19 epidemic. This page serves as a resource for updates and information for our members, partners and friends:
During this challenging time, the forest products industry plays an important role in critical infrastructure in North America in a number of ways:
- Wood building products are the principal building material used across a myriad of infrastructure projects, including emergency medical and lodging structures, and temporary buildings, as well as timely refurbishing or re-purposing of existing facilities for immediate use. As an example, there are established design guidelines for modest buildings up to 16ʹ x 24ʹ in size that can be constructed within 24 hours and withstand both high winds and seismic forces. These are not “temporary” buildings but rather can be erected quickly for immediate use. These designs were shared with emergency responders for use following the natural disasters in Haiti and Puerto Rico, among other places.
- Residuals from wood products manufacturers are used extensively by pulp and paper mills, which are then used in tissue, personal hygiene and packaging products that are all critically-needed products during this crisis.
- Wood products manufacturing facilities provide needed materials for construction supply lines. Many wood product manufacturers generate electricity for the public utility grid using carbon neutral biomass.
- Moreover, our mills are constructed and operate in a way that supports social distancing, and stringent safety procedures are already the norm.
- Wood products facilities are frequently located in rural communities and provide family-wage jobs that are otherwise in very short supply in those areas. Maintaining employment at wood products facilities through this crisis is essential to prevent disastrous effects on rural economies.
- Wood fiber from public lands plays an essential role in forest products infrastructure throughout the West. To ensure this infrastructure can continue to access fiber and operate to meet the nation’s needs, it is essential for agencies to work proactively with timber purchasers to retain viable forest management capacity. In addition to helping rural communities and companies weather disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 epidemic, it is important for agencies to maintain vital forest restoration and wildfire mitigation efforts on public lands.
Coronavirus Construction Limits: State by State Tracker (Compiled by Builder Magazine)
Forest Products Industry: Tracking COVID-19 Across the States (Compiled by Forest Resources Association)
Washington State ‘Stay Home’ Exemption Template (Furnished by Washington Forest Protection Association)
DHS Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce (Version 2.0, released March 30, includes housing construction)
Critical Infrastructure Exemption: Downloadable form template for forestry workers, employers and sole proprietors (Furnished by California Forestry Association)
May 27, 2020: Follow and track state reopening plans here:
April 29, 2020: Yesterday, the Forest Service produced the “COVID-19 Related Contract Questions and Answers” memo. It’s a helpful document as members consider and submit contract extension requests, particularly for IRSCs.
Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressman Walden sent the attached letter to USFS Chief Christiansen urging the Forest Service to extend the same contract relief included in the SOPI to IRSCs. This is not an Oregon or Region 6 specific letter. We encourage members to reference or include this letter in IRSC extension requests.
April 27, 2020: Additional Guidance on Forest Service Contract Extensions and IRSCs: On Friday afternoon, the Forest Service Washington Office sent guidance to the Regions that outlined the “leader’s intent” for contracting officers to exercise “maximum use of flexibilities within each contract to address potential impacts as a result of Covid-19.” The letter also highlights concerns related to Integrated Resource Service Contracts (IRSCs) that are “uniquely tied to the forest products market.”
On Thursday, April 23 the U.S. House followed the Senate in passing a $484 billion measure to replenish the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) along with additional funding for hospitals and Coronavirus testing. With the additional funding, the SBA began accepting PPP applications from participating lenders today at 10:30 AM Eastern.
Last Friday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined leaders from the building industry and labor unions to announce a framework for resuming existing construction projects in Washington State under strict guidelines for low-risk construction work. AFRC joined with Washington’s forest products industry in asking Governor Inslee to reconsider his initial restrictive measures in this letter and will continue to monitor the situation. In the meantime, we hope this will help restore some lost demand for wood products used in the construction in Washington.
April 16, 2020: Despite a national advocacy effort to include Integrated Resource Stewardship Contract (IRSC) extensions in the Forest Service SOPI, those with IRSC contracts have not yet been provided relief or possible extensions.
In response, AFRC sent a letter to Region 6 requesting the Regional Forester take immediate action to “extend the intent and substance of the SOPI to IRSCs…” by exercising existing standard IRSC contract clauses. A similar letter was sent to Region 5 from the California Forestry Association. Correcting this inconsistency remains a top priority for AFRC and national partners.
Reminder: Forest Service Contract Relief Now Available: Contract extensions of up to two-years are now available. The official Federal Register notice is available here. AFRC has prepared a memo also outlining procedures by which purchasers may request a temporary reduction in down payment. You must request this reduction in writing. We urge you to consult with your contracting officer to determine whether to make this part of your request for the SOPI extension or to make a separate request.
April 15, 2020: The Forest Service announced purchasers holding timber sales contracts or certain Stewardship Contracts awarded before April 1, 2020 are eligible for up to 2 year extensions. The Secretary of Agriculture made a finding of “Significant Overriding Public Interest” (SOPI) on April 10, after FFRC, AFRC, and the American Loggers Council rallied 37 timber groups around the country in requesting these extensions in March. Read more in the Federal Register and contact AFRC for more information.
Disappointingly, the SOPI does not provide for contract extensions for Integrated Resource Service Contracts (IRSCs). We have been working and will continue to work with the Forest Service Washington Office and Regional Offices to get guidance to the field to provide maximum flexibility to purchasers for those contracts as well.
April 6, 2020: USDA issued its updated “Shelter in place” direction that lists the following Forest Service employees as “essential”: “Law enforcement, wildland firefighting, forest and rangeland management activities that support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, activities associated with maintaining and protecting critical energy, communications and infrastructure, preservation of research property and other functions supporting protection of public safety and natural resource management at National Forests and Grasslands.”
The Forest Service Washington Office also issued an advisory letter to Regional Foresters providing guidance to its personnel regarding timber sale operations. The letter notes that “Timber sale preparation, bid opening and sale administration, timber sale accounting activities will also continue with safety of our employees, customers and contractors first and foremost.”
April 1, 2020: AFRC sent a letter to BLM leadership requesting extensions of Time for Cutting and Removal of Timber on all awarded BLM timber sale contracts.
March 31, 2020: The CARES Act (COVID19 economic relief package) passed by Congress and signed by President Trump establishes or expands numerous Federal programs to assist businesses of all sizes. To help members navigate the new law, AFRC has created this resource: Highlights of CARES Act Programs for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses.
On Saturday, March 28, the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) updated the Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce document. Important additions to Version 2.0 to the forest products sector are below:
“Workers supporting the construction of housing, including those supporting government functions related to the building and development process, such as inspections, permitting and plan review services that can be modified to protect the public health, but fundamentally should continue and serve the construction of housing (e.g., allow qualified private third-party inspections in case of government shutdown).”
“Workers who support the supply chain of building materials from production through application/installation, including cabinetry, fixtures, doors, cement, hardware, plumbing, electrical, heating/cooling, refrigeration, appliances, paint/coatings, and employees who provide services that enable repair materials and equipment for essential functions.”
This new CISA language has been shared with Governor Inslee whose order last week shut down commercial and residential construction in Washington state through April 6. AFRC joined with Washington’s forest products industry in asking Governor Inslee to reconsider in this letter.
Today, AFRC and its national partners sent letters to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees and to the President, seeking support for 4 key Forest Service and BLM programs as the federal government considers stimulus measures to help aid in the economic recovery after the current economic disruption.
It’s unclear how quickly Congress will turn to the next COVID response bill (House leaders have indicated a far quicker timeline than Senate leaders). However, with the President extending the CDC social distancing guidelines through the end of April and many Governors extending stay at home orders well beyond that, it seems likely that there will be at least one more bill focused on economic recovery. Because the Congress is expected to be out until at least April 20th, we have an important window of time to communicate on these issues with our respective Congressional delegations.
Action Alert: Please consider contacting your House Representative, Senators, and the President and ask them to support investments in these key programs, which are focused on active forest management. HFHC has established a pre-drafted action alert here. It only takes a few clicks, and your help will make a difference in these efforts. You can personalize the email to let the offices know the issue is important to you.
March 30, 2020: Senator Daines (MT) sent a to letter to AG Secretary Perdue requesting the Department continue preparing and offering new timber sales; utilize available technologies and innovation to allow meetings, appropriate sale preparation, and needed field work; and consider providing all timber contract holders with a two year extension. AFRC thanks Senator Daines for his advocacy for the entire forest products industry.
March 26, 2020: AFRC continues to maintain regular communication with land management agencies at all levels regarding their operations. Each agency is facing unique challenges as they respond to the epidemic. In light of DHS guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, AFRC is proactively working with the agencies to keep timber programs moving forward, and to promote stability in our rural economies and forest products infrastructure. We are also encouraging the agencies to consider using new tools and technologies to maintain operations while keeping their personnel safe.
Late last night the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) by a 96 to 0 vote. The House is expected to follow suit today or tomorrow before being signed by the President. We encourage companies to carefully evaluate the relief and financing provisions available in this legislation (loans, tax incentives and relief, unemployment and payroll, etc.) as they may be relevant and helpful to operations. While this financial package is beyond the scope and expertise of AFRC, here are helpful links from two law firms to help navigate important provisions: Holland & Knight & Steptoe.
Thanks to the widespread support from industry, it’s our understanding that the Forest Service will publish the SOPI extension in the Federal Register as early as the end of next week. This SOPI is far more expansive than prior SOPI findings, reflecting the timely work we did to push for its expansion. It will allow purchasers to request up to 2 years extension on any Forest Service timber sale contract, including salvage sales, and will apply to all contracts (previous SOPI’s were only available if you had 60 days or less remaining on your contract). Once granted, these SOPI extensions will enable contract holders to defer periodic payments and should allow release of bonds and deposits. We will share the Federal Register notice as soon as it is published.
As Congress is expected to consider a fourth COVID-19 response supplemental (so-called “COVID IV”), AFRC and its partners are working to identify opportunities to provide the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management with additional funding for key programs.
Late last night, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order clarifying that his previous “Stay at Home” proclamation does not include an exemption for commercial or residential construction, effectively shutting down construction in Washington state as of today. Of course, this has direct and indirect implications for the forest products industry and supply chains – and sets a bad precedent for other states (with the exception of Pennsylvania, all other states with Shelter-in-Place orders have included construction as essential and critical). We are working with the Building Industry Association of Washington and WFPA in urging Governor Inslee to reconsider based on safety, economic, and precedential factors.
March 24, 2020: In issuing his ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee identifies “[w]orkers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products” as essential workforce.
Consistent with the member companies and organizations we are proud to represent, AFRC values the safety of our team, members, and partners above all else. To reflect this value, AFRC has implemented the following steps:
–All team members who are able to work from home are required to do so from today onward until further notice.
–All non-essential business travel has been restricted, cancelled, or rescheduled.
–All social and business visits to AFRC’s offices (Olympia, Portland, and Eugene) are suspended until further notice.
While in-person interactions have been temporarily suspended, the work AFRC does to support its members’ operations and success will continue. AFRC team members will be available and responsive during regular business hours by phone and email. As public information and government directives change daily impacting association business, the best way to reach AFRC is to call or email Cindi Kaneshige (503-222-9505/ [email protected]). Messages will be delivered to and returned by appropriate staff as soon as possible.
March 23, 2020: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-12 directing Oregonians to stay at home to the maximum extent possible and adding to the list of businesses that will be temporarily closed to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. Consistent with AFRC’s recommendation and request, manufacturing, construction, and the forest products industry are not on the closure list and may remain open, subject to social distancing conditions. AFRC is in compliance with the Executive Order. We have maximized social distancing and telecommuting options, while ensuring our ability to continue serving and advocating for our members.
AFRC has also been in direct communication with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his staff. Gov. Inslee is likely considering further directives and orders impacting workers, businesses, and transit in Washington state. We have used this opportunity to convey the importance of maintaining the operations of the forest products industry and its supply chains and to urge the Governor to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s national guidance in designating Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
In Washington DC, AFRC is working closely with the Federal Forest Resource Coalition and focusing on getting the Forest Service to provide contract relief as quickly as possible for purchasers who want it. As Congress considers stimulus measures, AFRC and its partners are advocating for, at a minimum:
–$200 million boost to the Forest Products (timber sales) line item. This funding would be available over 3 fiscal years and would go a substantial distance to eliminating current barriers to increased outputs, particularly if it is used to hire or contract for more timber sale prep staff.
–$200 million to Vegetation Management to fund currently unfunded CFLR projects with NEPA ready work. These projects frequently boost timber output and attract matching dollars from outside partners. We would work with the Forest Service to ensure that funds would be directed to CFLR projects with a strong timber component.
–$500 million for Capital Improvement & Maintenance – Roads funding. This amounts to 13 percent of the Forest Service’s $3.8 Billion road maintenance backlog.
California Forestry Association and Associated California Loggers have provided this downloadable form template that can be provided to forestry workers to document your Critical Infrastructure exemption as “stay-at-home” orders are enforced.
March 20, 2020: AFRC sends a letter to Idaho Gov. Brad Little urging his state to adopt policies consistent with the federal government’s guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, which identifies “[w]orkers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products.”
AFRC and its partners continue to be in contact with Forest Service leadership to provide contract extensions and flexibility to timber purchasers. At the same time, we are emphasizing the importance of continuing to analyze, prepare, and offer new economically-viable timber sales so projects benefiting forest health and rural communities can continue.
March 19, 2020: DHS recognizes the need to protect this critical infrastructure, specifically identifying “Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products.”
Because the national guidance is advisory in nature, AFRC partnered with the Washington Forest Protection Association and the Oregon Forest & Industries Council to respectively urge the governors of Oregon and Washington to adopt policies consistent with the federal government’s guidance, explicitly including the forest products industry as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce to protect and support critical supply chains, communities, workers and employers.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place for nearly 40 million Californians and countless businesses. Importantly, the Governor’s order was consistent with DHS’s national guidance relating to Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce and specifically identified the forest products industry as essential and critical.
March 18, 2020: AFRC joins the Federal Forest Resource Coalition in urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to include the forest products industry as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce to avoid supply chain disruptions and protect forest products industry workers and businesses in the case of national, regional, or state-specific shelter-in-place orders.
AFRC joins over two dozen industry associations in urging U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to work proactively with federal timber purchasers to retain viable forest management capacity.