Here's a U.S. agency you should know: APHIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is a branch of the USDA (United States Agricultural Department).

Now frankly, like most Americans, I don't always speak too well of government agencies. We've all cursed the IRS or the TSA or EPA at one time or another. But I do have to say that every experience I've had with APHIS has been a good one. 

For us in the wood industry, we often look to APHIS for information on Lacey. And I'd like to remind folks to regularly check their site for updates to the declaration form or new additions to their species resource list. In fact, I need to remember to do that more often myself-when looking through it this week, I found that they've set up SPF for a special classification on the declaration form which is a real time saver for importers of Canadian softwood lumber.

Of course, APHIS is more than Lacey. Where do you go if you want any information on importing and exporting material? APHIS, of course.  APHIS helps with the safe movement of plants and animals into and out of the United States, so you go to them to get a permit to import a tropical timber, to find out about wood packaging policies or to schedule an export inspection for your lumber. 

But wait, there's more! APHIS does more than just govern international trade-they're pretty busy domestically too. Did you know they are vaccinating raccoons and other wildlife against rabies? They are also conducting an agricultural census of American farmlands. They've got a laboratory to study animal diseases. And much more beyond that.  Flip through the site and see all the things they're doing.

And while you're at it-take a look here. APHIS has a You Tube channel!  Their featured video is about insect sniffing dogs, which is a pretty neat idea…but I know you'll all want to see the insect man:

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")