Retailers protest wood import restrictions

A representative of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) testified before a U.S. Congress subcommittee on May 8 about concerns surrounding compliance challenges that have emerged from the 2008 Lacey Act, especially concerning wood imports.

Laurie Everill, regional customer and compliance manager for IKEA-North America, spoke before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife Oceans and Insular Affairs. She pointed out that, among other things, the Lacey Act law requires importers to provide to U.S. Customs and the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service such details as the genus, species and country of harvest for products that include wood materials.

“The current bills in the House -- Tennessee Congressman Cooper’s RELIEF Act and Georgia Congressman Broun’s FOCUS Act -- have raised awareness of Members of Congress and the public to the practical challenges related to the Lacey Act Amendments,” said Everill in testimony submitted to Congress. “However, neither of these bills would adequately address these challenges, and in order to be credible, any change needs to be supported by the environmental community. We are looking for a new legislative approach that effectively addresses the issues of business stakeholders, stands the best chance of generating broad, bipartisan support in Congress and all stakeholders, but without undermining the very important goal to stop illegal logging.”

In a prepared statement, Stephanie Lester, RILA’s VP international trade, said: “While retailers strongly support efforts to combat illegal logging, there is a growing recognition that compliance with the Lacey Act is very difficult. Simple changes to the law would help retailers comply and achieve the policy goals shared by RILA, our members and the law’s most strident advocates.”

To make implementation of the Lacey Act more targeted and effective, retailers are seeking changes to the law that would simplify the import declaration, ensure due process, clarify the scope of applicable foreign laws and regulations, and exclude products manufactured before the Lacey Act Amendment was enacted in 2008.

Based in Washington, D.C., RILA is a trade association of the world’s largest retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales.

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