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Lacey's Documentary Burden for Importers

Elizabeth Baldwin

The initial focus by most companies when considering the Lacey Act is on the documentary burden. Lacey affects everything containing plant-based materials-even the wood burl veneer on a car's dashboard must be documented. The total number of items impacted is expected to exceed 90,000.

Every importer must file a detailed declaration for incoming agricultural products specifying species and country of origin, no matter where the final product is produced. This includes material coming from Canada and Mexico-NAFTA does not eliminate any Lacey-related compliance requirements.

The international wood products trade often has a very complicated supply chain. An engineered floor might be made in China but contain a meranti plywood core made in Malaysia and a top veneer of red oak originally from the United States. The declaration requires that the importer know the source countries and exact scientific species for each component, including material originating from the United States.  

While difficult enough for a company importing a single type of solid decking, this is a significant challenge to companies that import mixed species production, such as furniture or kitchen cabinet companies. Wood is traded under a commercial or trade name, but is rarely purely a single species of tree. A meranti plywood core might require a declaration of over fifty species (out of over 250 possible). The top veneer might come from several countries and include dozens of species within the one genus. Developing a system to document and track the species is one of the challenges Lacey puts on companies.

In many cases, a freight forwarder or broker will file the declaration, but the company must provide the information for them. U.S. Customs is trying to accept information electronically, but is still receiving the majority of declaration on paper. They have developed a rolling implementation schedule, requiring declarations for different HS (Harmonized System) Codes to start on different dates. These dates are subject to change as Customs' information collection system continues to be developed. An updated listing of items subject to declaration (listed by HS code) is available on the APHIS website.

Next week we'll look at the Legality Burden, which is for absolutely everyone.

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