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Are you Compliant? What Furniture Importers NEED to know about the Lacey Act
By: Seth Berman

New penalties on illegally sourced woods could cause innocent buyers up to $200,000 in fines, forfeiture of goods, and possible imprisonment.

Are you compliant?  Lacey Act restrictions go into effect April 2010.

The main change to the 100-year-old Lacey Act is that it is now against the law to trade or own illegally sourced animals/agricultural materials (including wood), regardless of their point of origin.  And starting in April, all companies will be required to provide detailed documentation on the source and origin of the imported agricultural products.

Details on what importers and manufacturers need to know are available from Furniture Today, in a free White Paper.

The major issue we can see is that all importers must file a detailed declaration for incoming agricultural products specifying species and country of origin, no matter where the product is assembled.  So a coffee table made from Indonesian rubberwood and American cherry veneer would need to include both species and origins.   

An important note to importers: plywood, MDF, and fiberboards alone can sometimes contain over a hundred species of wood, and it seems that industry pressure has won out.  Until further notice, the APHIS has published a guidance document with regard to composite, recycled, and/or reused materials.  Basically, APHIS is instructing importers to indicate the type of material (e.g. MDF) under “plant scientific name”.  The link above also shows an example to help fill out the document.

For now, there is no specific burden on the importer to provide documentation on the legality of the materials, but that certainly is the intent.  This means that importers ARE required to ensure that their immediate purchase is legal, as well as attempt to trace the origin of the materials back to its point of harvest to ensure all steps along the way have been made in accordance with local and international law.  If imports are found to be “tainted”, then the importer can be prosecuted to the full extent of the Lacey Act.

To download the Declaration Form, click here

Please note that packaging materials do not need to be submitted in this documentation; but they still need to be heat-treated or fumigated with methyl bromide and include an approved international mark certifying treatment.

The Official US Government website for the Lacey Act is:

Those who file electronic customs forms will note that they will automatically be prompted to enter Lacey Act declaration information.

This type of documentation is becoming more necessary in countries around the world, and our industry needs to support legally harvested materials.  But, it should be noted that the burden of proof falls on the US government, so it is not clear how easily they will be able to enforce these regulations. 

Those who are attending the Las Vegas Market this Febuary should note that there is a and ECO conference being held on January 31, that is specifically covering the Lacey Act. will continue to update this story as it develops…


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