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U.S. Manufacturers Push for Elimination of Proposed APHIS Rule on Wood Packaging

Posted June 01, 2017

Just days after taking office, President Trump issued a memorandum instructing the Department of Commerce to study the impact of “burdensome” federal government regulations on domestic manufacturing and to prepare a report outlining recommendations for “priority actions” that could be taken to lighten the load. 

As part of the public input process, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest industrial trade group in the United States, submitted an extensive list of recommendations, including a number with a trade dimension.

Of specific interest to Canadian firms, NAM urged the Trump administration to reconsider a draft rule with a planned implementation date of May 2017 to amend import regulations under the Plant Protection Act by removing the current exemption that allows North American wood packaging material, such as wood pallets, to enter the U.S. from Canada under a general permit.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) justified the proposed amendment by pointing to a 2009 pest risk analysis that studied the movement of pests through wood packaging, the NAM accused APHIS of ignoring that fact that none of the invasive pests it sought to control are indigenous to the U.S. or Canada.

Moreover, the regulator had relied on “a faulty assessment that the economic impact was not significant,” but as NAM pointed out, more than a million wood pallets loaded with goods cross the Canada-U.S. border every day, according to industry estimates.  Eliminating the exemption, NAM said would have a “significant negative impact” on manufacturers by increasing shipping costs, “as well as denying the wood pallet industry a substantial market for their products.”

Finally, NAM contended that the rule, “which uses pest risk management as a key rationale, would also divert enforcement resources away from areas of the North American border that serve as the main entry points for the pests actually identified in the 2009 PRA.”  

“APHIS should withdraw this unnecessary proposed rule and preserve the exemption that allows North American wood packaging material, such as wood pallets, to enter the United States from Canada under a general permit,” the group concluded.

Note: The Commerce report called for by the executive memorandum was due on May 30, but has yet to be published.