The Lacey Act: What it Says | Wood Floor Business

The Lacey Act: What it Says

Elizabeth Baldwin Headshot

As noted a few weeks ago, APHIS is looking for commentary on the Lacey Act. I thought it would be good to take a few posts to review the Act and what it means for everyone in the wood industry.

First, let's look at what the Lacey Act requires. In a simplistic summary, there are three basic components:

1) It is a United States federal offense to trade in illegal or "tainted" plants and plant based products; and the action that made the product illegal ("tainted" the product) does not have to have occurred within the US. Included in the long list of ways to "taint" a product are actions such as harvesting it illegally, trading it without proper duties or other fees being paid, or smuggling/stealing it.

2) Importers need to declare both what species they are bringing in and where it came from.

3) Don't lie to the government! (While this seems like common sense, the government has to specifically state that it's wrong so they can prosecute you if you do it.)

The Lacey Act applies to everyone in the United States, from the individuals and companies doing business in wood to the final retail consumer-the law does not exclude anyone. Violations of the new law will be met with steep penalties if the government is able to prove that an individual or a corporation has knowingly traded in illegal material or has misreported an imported product. Ten years of imprisonment is a possible penalty and corporate fines can go as high as $500,000.

Lacey is not alone in the world-the international demand for legality documentation is here to stay, and it's not just for the U.S. Japan began requiring some forms of legality statements over five years ago, the United Kingdom is debating the issue, and even the state of Illinois recently considered passing a law against the trade of illegal timber within the state. Furthermore, the European Union is currently developing legislation similar to the Lacey Act that will cover international trade with all of the countries in the Euro-zone. (There is rumor that this legislation may potentially require the submission of legality documentation at the point of entry, which Lacey currently does not require).  

So the work you do today, if you trade in other countries, may help you far beyond just complying with the Lacey Act. The documentary conditions created by Lacey Act may well become the default condition for the international trade of wood products.

Next week, we'll look at the documentary burden on importers.

Resource Book
Looking for a specific product or a company? Wood Floor Business has the only comprehensive database of the industry.
Learn More
Resource Book
All Things Wood Floor, created by Wood Floor Business magazine, talks to interesting wood flooring pros to share knowledge, stories and tips on everything to do with wood flooring, from installation, sanding and finishing to business management.
Learn More