OIA Notes from the Hill: April 7, 2021

By Rich Harper April 7, 2021

Rich Harper Speaking at Outdoor Retailer

Outdoorists showed up in record numbers to vote last November in support of the outdoors. As a result, OIA and our members have the opportunity to work with a new administration and Congress to secure wins across our policy agenda. These priorities include preserving our public lands and waters, making sure the outdoors is open to all Americans, combatting climate change and promoting a stable and predictable trade policy for domestic manufacturers and importers alike.

The Biden administration and Congress moved quickly to tackle an ambitious domestic policy agenda, securing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Now, the debate in D.C. turns to how to implement President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan and address climate change. We hit the ground running in 2021 and are ready to secure meaningful wins for the outdoor industry and OIA members.

January Leadership Roundtable Meetings

In early January, OIA convened a group of outdoor executives to meet with key members of the incoming Biden administration and Congress to discuss how we can work together to support the outdoor recreation economy. The group included the following officials:

  • Deb Haaland (D-NM), then Secretary of Interior nominee
  • Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chairman of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee; House Natural Resources Committee
  • Gina McCarthy, head of new White House Office on Climate

Members highlighted the work of the Climate Action Corps, the benefits of the 30×30 initiative, and promoting more diversity and equity in the outdoors. We plan to organize another round of meetings in April to continue this dialogue and highlight OIA members as the business voice in support of recreation, public lands and climate initiatives.

Conservation, Climate, Outdoor Recreation and Public Lands

After he was sworn in, President Biden issued a series of Executive Orders highlighting key parts of our policy agenda, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, establishing a White House office on climate, supporting a Climate Conservation Corps and calling for a review of the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments.

In addition, he also called for a plan to implement the “30×30” initiative, an effort to conserve 30 percent of our nation’s lands and oceans by 2030 for the benefit of nature, people and climate resiliency. OIA sent a letter to the Biden administration signed by 30 members in support of this initiative and has been in active conversations with the administration and key partners on the development of the 30×30 plan. We anticipate much of the burden of implementing 30×30 will fall to the states, and, consequently, this will be a key focus of our state and local program.

We were also proud to support the historic nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), a longtime champion of the outdoors, to be the next secretary of the Interior. OIA organized a support letter signed by 34 members, and we applauded her confirmation on March 15. We look forward to a productive relationship in support of the outdoors and the outdoor recreation economy.

OIA continues to engage with key members of Congress and their staffs – Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Senator Susan Collins (D-ME), Senator Angus King (I-ME), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) – to identify opportunities to lead on recreation, public lands and climate. As Congress moves forward with the president’s “Build Back Better” plan, OIA will utilize the newly rebooted Recreation Advisory Council (RAC) to identify priorities and develop a comprehensive advocacy effort. The RAC is led by Taldi Harrison, government and community affairs manager from REI, and includes representatives from VF, Patagonia, NEMO Equipment, Orvis and L.L.Bean. Key legislative priorities will likely include the following:

  • Funding for a Civilian Conservation Corps
  • Investing in green infrastructure, including trails, LWCF projects, urban parks, and reforestation
  • Implementing the Great American Outdoors Act
  • Streamlining the recreational permitting process (SOAR Act)
  • Protecting 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado (CORE Act)
  • Implementing the 30×30 initiative

OIA will also continue to promote more equity and diversity in the outdoors. OIA endorsed legislation introduced by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA) and Rep. Neguse to provide $500 million for urban parks. We have also had several conversations with Senator Heinrich’s (D-NM) staff about legislation he plans to introduce inspired by the Outdoor FUTURE Initiative to provide federal funding for state-based equity funds like those in New Mexico and Colorado.

In our conversations with members of Congress and their staffs, we are highlighting the work of the OIA Climate Action Corps and our willingness to be the outdoor business voice in support of the Biden administration’s climate agenda. While we are calling for big, bold climate legislation, we are also closely monitoring how the process for congressional consideration will play out.

In support of bold action on climate, we applauded the release of the president’s ambitious infrastructure proposal, including provisions on the following:

  • Investing $10 billion in a new Civilian Climate Corps
  • Creating good-paying jobs through electric vehicle manufacturing
  • Environmental justice and equity in the outdoors
  • Mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience workers
  • Maximizing the resilience of land and water resources to protect communities and the environment
  • Establishing the United States as a leader in climate science, innovation and R&D
  • Jump-starting clean energy manufacturing

By mid-April, we will identify and urge OIA members to support climate priorities that could be included in a final infrastructure package. OIA also signed a letter organized by the We Mean Business coalition, calling on the Biden administration to adopt an ambitious climate goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

International Trade

A key goal of our trade program is to promote a stable and predictable federal trade policy for outdoor companies, something that has been sorely lacking over the past few years with trade wars, multiple rounds of punitive tariffs and the threat of new tariffs. While the Biden administration will focus initially on domestic priorities, we believe its emphasis on dialogue, negotiation and multilateralism will help give outdoor companies confidence and certainty to get back to doing what they do best: develop innovative outdoor apparel, footwear and equipment to enhance the outdoor experience. Consistent with our balanced trade policy, OIA will partner with Congress and the administration to lower costs for importers and domestic manufacturers alike.

A good first step for the administration would be to eliminate the punitive tariffs imposed on outdoor products sourced from China. OIA recently joined the Tariff Reform Coalition, a multi-industry and multi-association effort calling for the removal of these tariffs and a reassessment of the utility of punitive tariffs and the need for more congressional oversight on U.S. tariff policy.

OIA will also focus on two priorities that expired at the end of 2020: renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the main trade preference program for developing countries (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and others), and a package of outdoor footwear miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs). Duty-free status for travel goods from GSP countries saved outdoor companies $300 million in 2019. MTBs are temporary (three-year) duty-suspension or duty-reduction bills that have saved outdoor companies $40 million in past rounds.

OIA sent a letter to the chair and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee urging them to renew GSP as soon as possible for a 10-year period and include an initiative drafted by OIA to make certain outdoor footwear products eligible for duty-free benefits under GSP for the first time. (We also expressed our willingness to engage in a conversation about expanding the requirements for beneficiary countries on human rights and the environment.) We expect to see movement on GSP and MTBs by the summer if not sooner.

Finally, OIA sent a letter of support for Katherine Tai to the be the next U.S. Trade Representative. We have worked with her during her time as a lead Democratic trade staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee and believe she has a good understanding of our balanced trade agenda. She was confirmed by the Senate on March 17.

State and Local

On March 24, OIA hosted a Policy Forum for members of the State Outdoor Business Association Network, a group of state-based outdoor business associations, at which we provided an update on our state and local program and highlighted our federal policy agenda. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke and provided an update on her Boundary Waters legislation and her assessment of the next steps for Congress on climate and infrastructure. Our goal is to reintroduce our state and local program to these groups and highlight our role as a convener and key resource for federal, state and local issues. We plan to organize additional events at least once a quarter.

We have had a great start to the year, but we have so much more to do to in support of our policy agenda in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Our success depends on the active engagement of our members with policymakers and their staffs; please contact me to learn more about how you and your company can get involved.

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