Port Delay Bills Are The Result Of Industry Input

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By Ashley Amidon,
CAE Executive Director International Wood Products Association Alexandria, VA
(703)820-7807 (c)

Association executives have a similar responsibility to members of Congress (although hopefully our opinion ratings are higher!); we have to both help lead based on our beliefs while also being responsive to the needs of our constituents. While luckily we don’t go to the ballot box every few years, in order for an association to be successful it has to be responsive to its members. That means that issues impacting broad swathes of an industry are the right place for an association to step in.

When I came back to IWPA in 2022, I kept hearing about the continuing challenge wood products importers face with port delays associated with Lacey Act enforcement. For years, the IWPA staff and members had reached out to agencies asking for guidelines or guidance, or even just answers on a specific issue, but were continually frustrated.

So it was only as a last resort that IWPA’s Board and committee leadership worked together to ask Congress for assistance in pushing for transparency and accountability in the processing of wood products shipments at our nation’s ports of entry, to better balance the needs of enforcement and business.

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to address the concerns IWPA’s members raised. In the Senate, Senators Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Katie Britt (R-AL), and in the House, Representatives John Duarte (R-CA-13) and Jim Costa (D-CA-21) have introduced their Strengthen Wood Product Supply Chains Act.

In summary, these bills would:

  • Set a clear 5-day timeline for USFWS, working with USDA-APHIS and CBP, to either release a shipment or issue a Notice of Detention,
  • The Notice of Detention would include 1) the specific reason for which the detention was initiated, 2) the anticipated length of the detention, 3) the nature of the tests or inquiries to be conducted so that the importer can replicate if they choose, 4) the nature of any information that, if supplied to USFWS, would accelerate disposition of the detention, and 5) notice that the importer may apply to transport the shipment to be stored in a CBP-approved bonded warehouse only if USFWS determines that such transport would not hamper Lacey Act enforcement.
  • Requires USFWS to make a Final Determination on admissibility, subject to a protest by the importer and petition to a court of competent jurisdiction, within 30 days.

These bills will ensure that importers who have material held at ports have a reasonable time frame, a point of contact, and clarity on the nature of the violation. It also allows USFWS to have the flexibility to allow the transfer of material to a CBP-bonded warehouse (as is allowed under regulations like UFPLA) or to keep the material if they choose; the choice is entirely the Agency’s.

I understand the complicated political dynamics that surround this issue, and I want to make it very clear that IWPA continues to support the Lacey Act. However, we also believe that it can work better, and that a better balance can be found between catching bad actors and providing certainty to American businesses following the law.

I am happy to discuss this issue or the bipartisan legislation we support with anyone; we want a solution that works for enforcement agencies and for businesses.

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