Things That Happen In Washington That Seem Unimportant At The Time

Spanish guitar (C.F.Martin)

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website reports the following about the Lacey Act:

The Lacey Act combats trafficking in “illegal” wildlife, fish, and plants. The 2008 Farm Bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), effective May 22, 2008, amended the Lacey Act by expanding its protection to a broader range of plants and plant products. The Lacey Act now, among other things, makes it unlawful, beginning December 15, 2008, to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration. This page will serve as a clearinghouse for all information related to the implementation of the Lacey Act declaration requirement and will be updated promptly as new information becomes available.

That sounds pretty harmless; however, it is not.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports on some rather unexpected consequences of that amendment process.

The article reports:

Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson’s chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company’s manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. “The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier,” he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.

Good grief. The long arm of the law has gotten totally out of control. The article further reports:

If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.

At a time when the unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, the federal government is hassling a guitar manufacturer and musicians with classic instruments. What a total waste of time.

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