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U.S. Government Takes Action, Studies Issues Regarding Pest Threats
Wood Pest Regulation Update: Overview on the latest developments in phytosanitary- related regulations. The U.S. government recently began assessing fines for imports that violate regulations. Also, it has released a report indicating that the environmental impacts of using methyl bromide for wood packagaging are minimial.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2007
In a variety of fronts, the U.S. government is taking action to reduce the spread of invasive species associated with wood packaging material (WPM).
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began in early March issuing damages and fees against importers, carriers or bonded custodian sending non-compliant WPM into the United States.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also released a report that dismissed the environmental impact of methyl bromide use connected with the WPM quarantine. This clears the way for fumigation to continue as a viable option for U.S. imports.
Based on discussions between industry and an APHIS representative, it looks like the federal government is about to issue new guidelines on pallets and pallet lumber within the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) quarantine area.
All of these developments could have impacts on domestic and/or international WPM shipments. Each one will be examined in detail in this update.
CBP Gets Tough with Monetary Fines
Companies shipping into the United States need to know that they face stiff fines if they do not comply. It appears that the unofficial grace period is over as the CBP gets tough.
The CBP has begun issuing claims for liquidated damages and/or penalties. Liquidated damages result from a breach of obligation under bond. When violations occur, liquidated damages and/or penalties will be assessed based on the value of the merchandise, which is considered the value of the WPM plus the value of the commodity or commodities identified for importation on the entry documentation. The liquidated damages claim may be issued at three times the entered value of the merchandise but not greater than the bond amount.
The regulations require all WPM entering or transiting through the United States to be properly marked to indicate that it has been either heat treated or treated with methyl bromide in accordance with ISPM-15.
The mark must be a legible and permanent mark that has the IPPC logo, the two-letter country code, the producer code, and the appropriate abbreviation for the treatment method used.
The CBP requires immediate exportation of any non-compliant WPM. This includes WPM that is unmarked, inappropriately marked, or marked but found infested with a live quarantine pest. All costs associated with the handling of non-compliant WPM, including the cost of exportation, are the responsibility of the violator.
Beyond claims for liquidated damages, penalties may be assessed even though there is compliance all with all emergency action notices when the importer, carrier or bonded custodian attempts to conceal a violation of WPM or the party has continuous documented violations (more than 5) over one fiscal year period nationally.
For more information, visit the CBP Web site at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import/commercial_enforcement/wpm/.
Government Estimates Minimal Ozone Damage Caused by ISPM-15 Related Fumigation
Amidst concern raised by a number of environmental activist groups, the USDA has released its finding about the overall environmental impacts of the continued use of methyl bromide for IPM-15 related fumigation. Green groups lobbied against an exemption for WPM point to possible ozone damage.
Government researchers indicate that the increase in methyl bromide due to wood packaging quarantines are more than compensated by the dramatic overall reduction in general agricultural use taking place around the globe.
A recently published USDA report shows that no substantial change to human health or the environment is anticipated as a result of methyl bromide continuing to be used as a treatment option for solid wood packaging.
As pointed out by the USDA report, each alternative to using methyl bromide has its own environmental and economic consequences. Many of the more common wood alternatives are usually made from non-renewable resources with limited ability to biodegrade after use. And there is a limited capacity to make these alternatives at this time.
Based on its recent findings, the U.S. government is not going to restrict methyl bromide for wood packaging material any time soon. The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association as well as other trade groups have effectively lobbied to keep methyl bromide a viable option.
In the United States, most high volume producers have switched to heat treatment due to lower cost and less environmental/health concern. However, fumigation remains the best option for treating loaded pallets or small lots. Heat treatment is not even an option in some parts of the world.
Some U.S. companies have stayed away from methyl bromide fumigation due to concern about the practice being outlawed in the future. It appears for at least the time being the U.S. government believes the benefits far outweigh any environmental impact.
APHIS Considers Extending Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine
The Enterprise has learned that the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will soon issue new guidelines for increased enforcement in the EAB quarantine area. This could have significant impacts on the pallet companies and lumber producers covered by the restrictions.
Currently, the quarantine covers the lower peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. As the pest spread, this area could expand. The EAB has also been discovered in Maryland and according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is expected to shortly be discovered in Wisconsin.
The Enterprise understands that the federal government is likely to extend the quarantine to all hardwood pallets and pallet lumber in the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) quarantine area. Nothing official has come out at this time, and APHIS refused to comment on what it was about to do. But correspondence obtained by the Enterprise supports the above conclusions.
Until any new regulations are issued, the EAB quarantine only covers ash pallets and pallet lumber. Other types of lumber and wood products, such as firewood, have their own requirements. Check www.emeraldashborer.info for more information on the latest EAB regulations.
Regulated material that is going to be shipped out of the quarantine area must comply with the quarantine. The only authorized pallet and pallet lumber treatment options are heat sterilization according to ISPM-15 and removing the bark plus the outer ˝ inch of wood prior to assembly.
One reason for extending the quarantine beyond just ash is because it can be hard to tell hardwood species apart. Plus, many mills sell pallet stock as an assortment of mixed hardwoods. In those cases, the pallet companies don’t know if they are receiving ash or not.
Tom Barnes, the executive director of the Michigan Association of Timbermen, said he estimates that requiring all hardwood pallet lumber and pallets going outside of the quarantine area to be treated could force some companies out of business. He also said it would certainly increase costs and could lead to widespread cheating. Anyone that tries to violate the regulations faces stiff penalties. Under the Plant Protection Act of 2000, violations of a domestic quarantine may result in a monetary fine up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment.
Barnes said, “Customers may start looking elsewhere or companies may produce non-compliant packaging.”
The Enterprise will have more information as soon as it becomes available.