For most Americans the Lacey Act has not been a topic of conversation since the federal government’s raids of Gibson Guitar’s Tennessee headquarters. Unfortunately recent developments with respect to allegations of Lacey Act violations by Lumber Liquidators have made it a topic not only for our own industry but for national news outlets as well.
Ever since the Lacey Act Amendments of 2008 were debated in Congress and signed into law, there has been a thirst for guidance about how those that import plant products into the United States can fulfill their compliance obligations. We at the International Wood Products Association have been active in working with staff from the Lacey Act Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to provide as much information to our members as possible about steps they must take to comply.
Unfortunately, the way the Act was worded means that there is considerable legal uncertainty for importers working in good faith to comply. Importers can ask themselves,
‘was this shipment of lumber or panels sourced in accordance with all foreign laws as required by the Act?’ Any lawyer would tell you that is nearly impossible to know when well-meaning individuals can barely fathom the complexity of our own legal system, let alone a completely foreign system that happens to be written in an entirely foreign language that in many cases rely upon different legal customs.
To address these challenges IWPA has taken a full spectrum approach. We continue to urge Congress to make a few reasonable changes to ease compliance and allow limited enforcement resources to be directed at those who are trying to import illegal products into the U.S. market. We have also begun development of a new training program for compliance staff. Our goal is not another standard or certification scheme, but rather a program to arm those buying and selling wood products with the latest information about resources and procedures that will allow them to tailor a compliance system for their own market niche. It is our hope that this training program will also incubate a new group of compliance professionals that will build a culture or professionalism and expertise that will be an asset not only to individual companies, but to our industry as a whole.
As we move forward with development of this program, we would like to invite you to participate in our first training session which will take place during IWPA’s Mid-Year Meeting Friday, October 22nd and 23rd, 2015 in Alexandria, Virginia. Please contact Joe O’Donnell (Joe@IWPAwood.org) if you or your staff are interested in participating.
Legal uncertainty is a huge drag on growth. While the recent news items about additional Lacey enforcement are seen by some as troubling development, our industry can seize on this opportunity to build a healthy culture of efficient compliance.