Minimum content exemption set for regulated plant imports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established a minimum content threshold for when importers of regulated plant-based products are excluded from filing a Lacey Act import declaration.

The Lacey Act, which combats trafficking in illegally harvested wildlife, fish and plants, requires U.S. importers to file an import declaration for certain plants and plant products with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. This declaration must include the scientific name of the plant, value and quantity of the plant, and country of harvest.

When the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act amended the Lacey Act to require the importer declaration for certain plant products, USDA said it did not address whether declaration requirements are needed for “otherwise non-plant products that contain a minimal amount of plant material, such as wooden buttons on a shirt.”    

In July 2018, the department proposed the content or “de minimis” exception for requiring the Lacey Act import declaration.

Effective April 1, USDA will adopt a de minimis declaration exemption for imported products that contain no more than 5% of Lacey Act-controlled plant or plant material by weight.

“This exception ensures that the declaration requirement fulfills the intent of the Lacey Act while reducing the regulatory burden on importers,” USDA said, adding that the exception will not apply to protected plant species.

While evaluating the impact of the rule on the import industry, USDA estimated in 2018 that there were 400 weekly shipments of commodities that would have been eligible for de minimis status under the new rule.

“Based on information available on those shipments, we estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of those commodities would have actually met the definition for de minimis exception,” the USDA said.