NFA Goes to Bat in D.C.

Washington DC USDA Whitten BldgNFA Director Scott Salveson was honored to speak on behalf of the Firewood Industry during a listening session hosted by the administration of APHIS/PPQ, the arm of the USDA responsible for the federal firewood quarantines in place due to invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer.

APHIS transport and treatment restrictions can have an enormous impact on firewood businesses both inside and outside the quarantined areas. Salveson was asked to comment on what APHIS can do to reduce the economic impact on those in the firewood business.

Currently there is no way to have a firewood kiln certified to meet USDA requirements if it is located outside of a quarantined area — a major hindrance for those wanting to sell firewood for national distribution, and a potential disaster for smaller producers as the quarantine borders expand each year — often unpredictably.

The National Firewood Association, among others, proposed that a third-party inspection, certification and monitoring program could be implemented if the USDA would recognize an outside certification as meeting or exceeding USDA requirements — a heat treatment where the core temperature of the wood is held at 160* for at least 75 minutes. APHIS would provide oversight on these programs, which would be modeled after protocols and procedures currently accepted when performed by agents of the USDA.

Many have expressed frustration with the agency, which has no jurisdiction outside a quarantined area. Salveson pointed out that the Firewood Industry accepts and applauds the restraint shown by the department, and illustrated the challenges unfairly faced by an increasing number of firewood producers as the quarantines continue to expand.

We are happy to report that APHIS officials were very receptive to our input and pledged support to help level the playing field for those negatively impacted by the current system of regulation and certification.

While modern, commercial firewood kilns are capable of easily surpassing USDA requirements, agencies currently involved in kiln certification report that many facilities are unable to achieve this requirement. These are primarily homemade kilns, or those converted or “repurposed” from lumber drying equipment. Such kilns may be effective for reducing the moisture content of firewood to acceptable levels, but simply cannot achieve or hold the required core temperature for the required period of time.

At first glance, the ability to produce USDA approved firewood may seem like a concern affecting only large-scale operations whose primary business is producing packaged firewood intended for national distribution, it is a major concern for smaller producers who may suddenly find themselves on a quarantine border with virtually no advance warning.

Those located near state lines (who serve customers in both states) can have their business devastated overnight — this also applies to those who serve markets in different counties as well, since quarantine boundaries follow political boundaries. The NFA knows of a number of firewood producers who have been caught up in this unfortunate regulatory surprise — one day it’s business as usual, the next day it’s illegal to deliver to many of your current customers.