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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced a revised plan to phase in the enforcement of the declaration requirements under the Lacey Act.  Under the revised schedule, which covers the period from December 15, 2008, to August 31, 2010, items were removed from Phase III, which is scheduled to begin October 1, 2009.  Also, Phase IV, which is scheduled to begin April 1, 2010, has been substantially revised. 

The public is invited to comment on the revised schedule and other aspects of implementation.  Only comments received on or before November 2, 2009, will be considered.  There will be no further additions to Phases III or IV.  APHIS intends to provide at least six months’ notice to persons and industries affected by changes to the phase-in schedule to facilitate compliance with the new requirements.   Any changes will be announced in the Federal Register.  Details about the revised plan of enforcement, including a table which outlines the current phase-in schedule and information about how to submit comments, are published in the September 2, 2009, Federal Register.

The Lacey Act, first enacted in 1900 and significantly amended in 1981, is the United States' oldest wildlife protection statute. The Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, and plants. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products and requiring that importers submit a declaration at the time of importation for certain plants and plant products.

Declarations must contain, among other things, the scientific name of the plant, value of the importation, quantity of the plant and name of the country where the plant was harvested.  For paper and paperboard products containing recycled content, the declaration also must include the average percent of recycled content without regard for species or country of harvest.  A declaration is required only for the product itself, and not the sundries that ordinarily accompany the product (e.g., tags, labels, manuals and warranty cards).  Packaging material is also exempt from the Lacey Act’s declaration requirement unless the packaging material itself is the item being imported or it is used for some other purpose than supporting, protecting or carrying another item.

It is important to note that while enforcement of the declaration requirement is being phased in, the other Lacey Act amendments are already effective, and actions to enforce those provisions may be taken at any time.  The latest information about the Lacey Act can be found on the APHIS website.

 
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