USDA to phase in Lacey Act import declaration enforcement
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will phase in enforcement of a sweeping new import declaration requirement for wood and wood-based products.
The requirement, which takes effect on Dec. 15, was part of the 2008 Farm Bill changes made by Congress to the country’s long-standing animal and plant protection legislation, known as the Lacey Act.
On the new import declaration, importers must list at entry the scientific names and species of any wood-related and plant products, the quantity and value of the merchandise, and the country from which the wood was harvested. The legislation provides for civil and criminal penalties of up to $10,000 and $20,000 respectively, for non-compliance.
To give importers additional time to prepare for the requirement, USDA proposed to begin phased-in enforcement starting about April 1, 2009, when Customs and Border Protection is expected to complete changes to its computer system to capture the declaration information. Importers will have until July 1 to fully comply.
“The proposal appears to respond to the concerns that both industry and federal agencies have expressed about their ability to meet the impending compliance deadline,” said law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg in a client notice on Wednesday.
In the interim, the USDA will make available to importers a paper declaration starting after Dec. 15.
“No agencies with Lacey Act enforcement authority will bring prosecutions or forfeiture actions for failing to complete the paper declaration form before the electronic system for data collection is available (April 1, 2009, or after); however, any person who submits a form containing false information may be prosecuted,” the USDA said in an Oct. 8 Federal Register notice (edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-23984.htm).
The USDA will host a public meeting on implementation of the Lacey Act amendments at its Washington headquarters on Oct. 14. More meetings will be held this winter near major U.S. port locations, which the USDA will announce in the Federal Register.
Also, for more details about the new import requirement for wood and wood products, read the October American Shipper, pages 22-24. ' Chris Gillis