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APHIS clarifies Lacey Act plant exemptions

APHIS clarifies Lacey Act plant exemptions

   The U.S. Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service last week issued proposed definitions for two categories of plants and plant products intended to make it easier for companies and individuals to comply with recent amendments to the Lacey Act.

   The amendments passed by Congress in 2008 require importers to file declarations specifying the scientific name and species of any wood or plant material contained in a product, the quantity and the country of harvest to stem trade of products made from illegally harvested wood. The law made it illegal to engage in transactions involving products with plants taken in violation of any federal, state or foreign law that protects plants. The department began to phase-in enforcement of product categories in the spring of 2009.

   Two areas that have created uncertainty within the trade community involve 'common cultivars' and 'common food crops,' both of which are exempted under the Lacey Act revisions.

   APHIS has now clarified which plants and plant products will be subject to enforcement.

   It defined a 'common cultivar' as a plant developed through selective breeding that is cultivated on a commercial scale. 'Common food crops' are those that have been cultivated for human or animal consumption on a commercial scale. Any plants that meet these definitions but are included on any national or international list of endangered or threatened species would not be exempted.

   The exemptions apply to roots, seeds and parts of such plants as well as any products made from them.

   APHIS said it would post guidance on its Web site giving examples of plants and commodities that qualify for exemptions.

   The agency will accept comments on its proposed definitions through Oct. 4. The proposal can be found here.