Still Not Out of the Woods

If your company imports, or uses any imported products, arriving on wooden pallets or in wooden containers, there’s some pending legislation you should know about. While there are plenty of efforts afoot to stop terrorists, there is a threat from another cabal that will impact your business.

More than $1.2 trillion in imported goods pass through this nation’s ports every year, almost half of incoming U.S. trade. Much of this enters on wooden pallets.

In early June (as we went to press), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), part of the Department of Agriculture, was proposing to amend the regulations for the importation of nonmanufactured wood articles. These rules follow, closely, its regulations on exportation of nonmanufactured wood products such as pallets and containers.

APHIS proposes to adopt an international standard entitled Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade that was approved by the Interim Commission on Phytosanitary Measures of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) on March 15, 2002. The standard calls for wood packaging material to be either heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide, in accordance with the guidelines, and marked with an approved international mark certifying treatment.

The IPPC guidelines represent the current international standard determined to be necessary and effective for controlling pests in wood packaging material used in global trade. The current U.S. requirements for wood packaging material are not fully effective.

Apparently, APHIS has shown by analyses of pest interceptions at ports, that an increase in pests associated with wood packaging material continues. This increase in pests was found in wood packaging material that does not meet the IPPC guidelines (e.g., wood packaging material from everywhere except China, which must already be treated due to past pest interceptions). This change would affect all persons using wood packaging material in connection with importing goods into the United States.

Logs, lumber and other nonmanufactured wood articles imported into the U.S. pose a significant hazard of introducing plant pests, including pathogens, detrimental to agriculture and to natural, cultivated and urban forest resources. Take the Asian longhorned beetle — please.

Our friend, known as ALB, has raised its ugly little head again, forcing APHIS to expand its quarantined areas to prevent the spread of ALB to other states and other countries.

The regulations designate certain items as regulated articles. Regulated articles may not be moved interstate from quarantined areas except in accordance with specific conditions. These items include green lumber and other material possibly used to build pallets and containers.

APHIS says this rulemaking is necessary on an emergency basis to prevent the artificial spread of ALB to non-infested areas of the United States.

APHIS is proposing to amend the regulations to decrease the risk of solid wood packing material (SWPM) introducing plant pests into the United States. SWPM is defined in the regulations as “wood packing material other than loose wood packing material, used or for use with cargo to prevent damage, including, but not limited to, dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, drums, cases and skids.” Introductions into the United States of exotic plant pests such as the pine shoot beetle and the Asian longhorned beetle have been linked to the importation of SWPM.

Because SWPM is often re-used, recycled or re-manufactured, the true origin of any piece of SWPM is difficult to determine.

What can you do? You can start by visiting the agency’s Web site, aphis.usda.gov, for the most current information and locations of hearings on this subject. It now appears the bugs are going to get into your business, coming and going. There is a need to develop globally accepted measures that may be applied to SWPM by all countries to eliminate the risk for most quarantined pests and significantly reduce the risk from other pests that may be associated with the SWPM.

Clyde E. Witt, executive editor [email protected]

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