If you're an importer of wood products, you should have a pretty good handle on the Lacey Act and what documentation is needed at the time of import. To offer a little background, the Lacey Act dates all the way back to 1900, but was overhauled in 2008 via the Farm Bill. Among other things, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration.

What products are affected by the Lacey Act?

With few exemptions, the Lacey Act affects a wide range of plant products. Under the Act, a plant is defined as "any wild member of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts or products thereof, and including trees from either natural or planted forest stands." In short, any product containing wood is likely subject to the Act.

The full list can be found here on the USDA website, but some of the most commonly imported products include the following:

Chapter 44

  • Wood in the rough (4403)
  • Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise (4407)
  • Sheets for veneering (4408)
  • Plywood (4408)
  • Plywood with veneered panels (4412)
  • Tools, tool handles, and mops (4417)
  • Builders joinery (4418)
  • Tableware & kitchenware of wood (4419)
  • Other articles of wood (4421)

Chapter 66

  • Walking sticks, whips, and crops (6602)

Chapter 82

  • Hand tools (8201)
  • Hunting knives with wood handles (8211)
  • Table barbecue forks (8215)

Chapter 92

  • Pianos (9201)
  • Other stringed instruments (9202)

Chapter 94

  • Seats with wood frames (9401)
  • Bentwood office, kitchen, and bedroom furniture (9403)

Chapter 97

  • Sculptures of wood (9703)

What information is required?

Importers are required to provide a declaration that includes the following:

  1. The species of plant (scientific name)
  2. The name of the country where it was harvested
  3. The value of the shipment
  4. The quantity of the plant material (usually measured by kilograms or cubic meters)

The information is best presented to your customs broker using PPQ Form 505, found here.

Who signs the form?

The importer of record is responsible for completing the form, signing, and submitting to APHIS (via their broker). A customs broker may sign the declaration with power of attorney from the importer of record, however, in doing so, assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of the information (note: INLT Inc. will not sign the PPQ Form 505).

Is there a de minimis exception?

No, the statute does not provide for any de minimis exceptions. However, the relative amount of an item at issue may be a factor in enforcement as it may go to the issue of knowledge or due care. For example, violations of the declaration requirements must be "knowing violations" before there is any criminal violation under the statute. Where a very small amount of product is not declared but found to be in a shipment, it may indicate a circumstance in which the declaration was not knowing false and thus not a criminal violation.

In addition to the Lacey Act, many of the wood products described herein are also now subject to TSCA labeling requirements, read more about that here.

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