Issue 1: December 6, 2011
The Lacey Act & You
Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Lacey Act and You, a biweekly update on one of the most important laws affecting the wood import industry.
The Lacey Act and You is designed to give you a quick update on what the IWPA is doing to improve the effectiveness of the Lacey Act, what’s happening on Capitol Hill, and what the media and others are saying.
Until recently, few people had heard of the Lacey Act, let alone understood what a devastating impact it can have on American businesses and jobs. But the law has taken center stage since the federal government raided Gibson Guitar’s warehouse last summer. That media coverage has raised public awareness of Lacey’s shortcomings and has given Congress the opportunity and the motivation to improve the law by eliminating its unintended consequences.
To ensure that Congress amends the Lacey Act in ways that both protect law-abiding businesses and individuals and preserve the law’s integrity, the IWPA formed a coalition of businesses, trade associations and non-profits to help lead the effort. We have been meeting weekly and have already conducted nearly twenty Hill visits, with another seven scheduled in the near future. We have also mobilized our Special Projects account to develop a comprehensive media and communications strategy.
When Congress drafted the 2008 Lacey Act Amendments, they did not set out to punish innocent Americans. Their goal was to create a legal structure that would help cripple the criminal forces behind the illegal logging that threatens forests around the globe—a goal we share and a mission we actively support. Increasingly organizations and Members of Congress recognize the primary drivers for illegal logging deal with land conversion activities and not the timber trade, and that Lacey has created some unintended consequences for our industry.
They said it… Fix it
“All too often we find that the regulations coming from bureaucrats in Washington have unintended consequences on the manufacturers, dealers, and consumers of goods and services in this country.” Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN) speaking of the Lacey Act.
“It`s not unusual for laws to have unintended consequences. And when they do, we legislators ought to say, `Whoops, we didn`t think of that. That may be a problem. Let`s see if we can fix it.`"
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
“No matter how the Gibson case develops, the law’s seemingly unintended incoherence has many instrument builders—and musicians—longing for clarity.”
Greg Olwell, Editor Strings Magazine
However, there has been significant opposition to any effort to improve Lacey, which comes as some surprise considering that all of us have exactly the same goal—to conserve the world’s forests. A recent Wall Street Journal article is suggesting reduction of imports was the ultimate goal all along so improving Lacey just may not be in some organization’s interests.
The problem with Protectionist thinking is there is always going to be someone in the forest. It will either be honest businesses working to sustain the forests or it will be criminals who view the forest as nothing more than acres of quick cash waiting to be plundered. Furthermore, as we create increasing costs for sustainable forest management, we just hasten the destruction of those forests as they are consumed for charcoal production or converted to agricultural uses. The unintended consequences of the Lacey Act may actually undermine its own mission.
Too Crazy to be True?
Yo-Yo Ma, the famed virtuoso cellist, prefers to play cellos crafted in the 18th century. In fact, he owns at least two cellos from that period -- a 1733 Montagnana from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Straparius formerly owned by Jacqueline du Pre. Did you know that when Yo-Yo Ma returns to the U.S. from his travels abroad with his cherished cellos, he could be violating the 2008 Amendments to the Lacey Act? We’re pretty sure he doesn’t know that either.
First Lady Michelle Obama may have unwittingly violated the Lacey Act herself when she gave French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar that had a rosewood fret board—less than a week after the Gibson raid.
"The same law that allows the Feds to raid American manufacturers and seize the possessopms of Americans without compensation applies to cars, too.... Let`s say you are driving a Bentley Flying Spur with a rosewood interior. Importation of Brazilian rosewood is a felony under the Lacey Act. Do you know where the rosewood in your Spur came from? Can you prove it?"
Jack Baruth, The Truth About Cars.
Questions IWPA has received from the media (and how we answered them)
Why does your industry oppose the Lacey Act?
We strongly support the goals of the Lacey Act, which is why we want Congress to make important changes to fix it. The 2008 Amendments resulted in some unintended consequences that are hurting U.S. businesses and costing jobs. Congress must make some simple refinements to Lacey.
Aren’t you just using the Gibson case for your self-interest?
This high-profile raid on an American company highlights many of the issues we have been raising for years---specifically, the need for innocent owner protections and that the unpredictability in compliance obligations and enforcement are putting tremendous pressure on responsible businesses. We’re simply pointing out that thousands of American businesses deal with these expensive challenges every day.
What Next? What do we need from you?
The effort to improve the Lacey Act is going to be a long one, and in time we will need your active support and participation in conjunction with our outreach to Members of Congress. Until then, please use this publication to inform your customers and your suppliers. Refer to our website for updates, and send anyone our way who wants to know more about our actions to protect the integrity and improve the functioning of Lacey. As always, your thoughts and comments - and your continued support- are greatly appreciated.
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The Lacey Act and You bulletins are published through our voluntary Special Projects Fund. Please contact Cindy Squires for more information on how to support IWPA’s Special Projects.