Be Careful How You Act: The Lacey Act


The original Lacey Act was enacted in 1900 as a part of a United States law that forbids trafficking illegal wildlife, fish, or plants, and has been revised a few times over the years.

On May 22, 2008, the Lacey Act was revised and amended to cover more specific classifications that included many plant products. In 2008, the Lacey Act was amended to make it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant, with some limited exceptions, taken or traded in violation of the laws of the United States, a U.S. State, or foreign country. It is very important for a company to understand these regulations in order to both knowingly and unknowingly operate their company in a lawful and environmentally-conscious fashion.

Enforcement of the Lacey Act assumes that all parties involved, regardless of each party’s knowledge of an offense, are liable for that offense, but penalties for each violation may vary based on the parties’ knowledge of that offense. Federal agencies that enforce this act base their assumption on a company’s due diligence to execute their operations in a lawful manner. There are two major components to the plant amendments: a ban on trading plants or plant products harvested in violation of the law, and a requirement to declare the scientific name, value, quantity, and country of harvest origin for some products. Keep these components in mind – especially if your main commodity is plant products. You never know what may slip through the cracks, and no matter what, you are still liable for any violations.

On September 2, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced their publication of the revised Lacey Act requirements for product import declaration of certain plant products.

This plan identifies a list of products, and their associated Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Chapter or Heading, that are anticipated to be enforced. This publication includes products, such as wild members of the plant kingdom, including roots, seeds, parts or products thereof, as well as trees from either natural or planted forest stands. Because there is a comprehensive list available, it should be easy for a company to maintain due diligence over its shipping operations. However, sometimes it can get confusing. Just keep in mind that nearly all exemptions to the Lacy Act involve packing materials even if they are made of plant materials, such as wooded crates, packing paper, card boxes, etc. Essentially, these exemptions include any material used in the shipment of the product. However, if a packing material is the product being shipped, than that product is subject to the rules and regulations that fall under the Lacy Act.

To legally move plant products across state lines, or to and from foreign countries, a declaration is required to obtain release of a covered product. Hence, you would need to submit a PPQ 505 (Plant Product Declaration), also known as the Lacey Act Declaration, to APHIS where the data will be transmitted to U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP)’s Automated Commercial System (ACS) through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI) in the cargo release module. The declaration requires the scientific name, country of harvest, value, and volume of the plant product being imported. You can either submit this form via mail or digitally through APHIS, but it is recommended that this form be submitted electronically. This method is, of course, faster and is fitting as we move on through the digital age.

It is easy to make mistakes, but a company can take steps to make sure that their operations are done lawfully.

Federal agencies lay out certain criteria to follow, and all this information is public and easy to research. Understanding which products fall under the Lacey Act is very important in order to maintain a high standard of operation. Whether it be the product being shipped, which materials being used to pack these products, or simply the proper paperwork to be filed, careful planning and due diligence can help maintain these standards moving forward.