In May 2008, Congress expanded the Lacey Act wildlife anti-trafficking statute to a broader range of plants and plant products, requiring importers to file expansive declarations identifying country of harvest, the genus and species of all plants contained in their products, as well as quantity, measure, and value. Failure to file these declarations could mean civil and criminal penalties.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS is administering these new requirements, and began phasing-in enforcement on April 1, 2009 requiring import declarations for various wood products (chapter 44 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule) including fuel wood, wood stakes, wood tools, etc. Additional Ch. 44 products were supposed to be added to the list on Oct. 1, 2009, (Phase III), but APHIS revised its implementation schedule in Sept. 2009, removing a number of items previously targeted for Phase III and Phase IV (April 1, 2010) including items in Chapter 47 ("wood pulp"), Chapter 48 ("Paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, of paper or of paperboard," e.g., toilet or facial tissue stock, coated paper, parchment, etc.) and Chapter 94 (affecting furniture, bedding, mattresses, etc.).
It is unclear when and if these products will eventually be targeted. Additional questions remain as to how products containing composite and recycled or reused material will be handled and when APHIS plans to move forward on its Aug. 2010 proposed definitions for the terms “common cultivar" and “common food crop” that are excluded from Lacey Act import declaration requirements.
SMART has joined a broad coalition of industry and interest groups that have asked U.S. officials to resolve these and other ambiguities and scale-back those requirements that are ineffective or overly burdensome. Newly-empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill increase the likelihood that these calls for a clearer and more rational approach may actually be heeded.