Hardwood Federation asks members to oppose amendments to Farm Bill
The Hardwood Federation is asking its members to rally support among themselves and oppose two amendments to the Farm Bill being brought before the U.S. Senate, according to Hardwood Floors, the official magazine of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). These amendments could have serious repercussions for wholesale flooring distributors.
Amendment #2178, from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is proposing Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012 (FOCUS Act), which would remove criminal penalties under the Lacey Act for trade in illegal logging, including any reference to foreign laws. The Lacey Act combats trafficking in illegal wildlife, fish and plants, making it unlawful to import certain plants and plant products with the proper import declarations, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.
According to a statement released by the Hardwood Federation, removing the criminal penalties of the Lacey Act would "severely reduce the ability of the U.S. government to curtail the onslaught of unfair, underpriced, illegal competition such as that faced by U.S. hardwood companies before the Hardwood Federation-supported Lacey Act amendments of 2008 were passed." The Federation is generally concerned that this amendment would result in the sprouting up of illegal competition, due to said competition no longer facing serious criminal repercussions for illegal logging activities.
The second proposed amendment, #2289, sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) seeks to cut USDA Market Access Program (MAP) funding by $40 million annually to a total of $160 million, according to Hardwood Floors. The American Hardwood Export Council is a recipient of MAP funding. The Hardwood Federation believes that reduction in MAP funding would lead to a slippery slope of amendments that could eventually eliminate these programs entirely.
Both amendments are part of a farm bill that would cut agricultural programs by $23.6 billion over 10 years, according to Businessweek. The bill is currently being delayed because lawmakers can't agree on how many amendments will be offered. It has also been a primary target for lawmakers trying to severely reduce the budget, as farm profits and expenditures on food stamps have soared in recent years. Net farm income this year will reach $91.7 billion, the second-highest total ever, while spending on food stamps reached a record $75.7 billion last year, according to the USDA.