The Hardwood Federation Fly-In to Washington D.C. is often billed as one of the most important advocacy events the industry holds in our nation’s capital. This year, more than any other year, that is a true characterization of a whirlwind 36 hours spent on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and their staff. The trade war with China continues without relief and the impacts on the hardwood industry have been fast, furious, and relentless.
Participation in this year’s fly-in was driven by concerns surrounding the ongoing U.S. trade dispute with China and the resulting tariffs on both Chinese imports and U.S. exports, most importantly to us, the tariffs on U.S. hardwood exports to China. While not at the record-breaking levels of 2018, we were close with nearly 70 participants in all.
The fly-in brought hardwood industry leaders from across the country to Washington to tell their stories and relay the industry’s message directly to the members of Congress that draft and vote on legislation impacting their bottom line. Our participants were a great mix of knowledgeable fly-in veterans and invigorated new faces spurred on to action by the economic impacts of the trade dispute. Together we stormed the Hill in small groups and visited as many congressional offices as possible to make real what for many is just a government statistic or campaign talking point.
As in years past, the Hardwood Federation PAC sponsored social events for republicans and democrats during the fly-in. These events also provide us with an outstanding opportunity to reconnect with friends on the Hill and establish new relationships. We heard from two members of Congress who completely tuned into our issues and are joined with us in efforts to provide relief to the industry while the trade dispute continues. Congresswoman Ann Kuster (D-NH) spearheaded a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue encouraging him to include hardwoods in agricultural relief efforts. She gave a terrific pep talk the night before our Hill meetings, focusing our energy for the long day ahead. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN) gave a fiery keynote to wrap up our Hill Day, encouraging continued action and sharing insight gleaned from her significant efforts communicating with the administration, up to and including the president, on our behalf.
This year’s fly-in was really all about trade. This is not to say that other issues aren’t moving, but trade is having such an impact that all else pales in comparison.
Our message on trade was simple: trade is having a devastating impact on hardwood companies, workers, and consumers, and is causing long-term damage to international markets. We asked that the Trump administration provide some relief to the hardwood industry just as they have for other agricultural commodity groups. Ideally, we would like to see a quick resolution to the trade war, but in the meantime, we need some help if our industry is to survive.
It cannot be emphasized enough how impactful personal stories of what the trade war is doing to your business, your employees, and your state and local economy are. It is not too late to make some noise. Call, write, or tweet your member of Congress and administration officials and tell them what you are thinking in your own words. Our “Contact Congress” outreach tool makes it easy and may be accessed at votervoice.net/THF/campaigns/66462/respond.
We hope everyone enjoyed their time on the Hill, learned something new, and came away with a new appreciation of how their engagement can make a difference on public policies made in Washington. I encourage everyone reading this to join us for next year’s fly-in so we can reach more offices, be even more effective, and set even more new records. We hope you can join us!
For more information on the fly-in, issues discussed, or to find out about participating in the 2020 fly-in, contact the Hardwood Federation at 202.463.2705.
Dana Lee Cole is Executive Director at the Hardwood Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based hardwood industry trade association that represents thousands of hardwood businesses in every state in the United States and acts as the industry’s advocacy voice on Capitol Hill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.