Special "Pilot Program" from the USFS

Rex Swartzendruber rexs13 at hotmail.takethispartout.com
Tue Feb 15 00:15:25 EST 2000


A bill passed by the US Congress (text follows) that includes a provision
for charging "temporary" fees for collecting Special Forest Products (SFP)
from Federal land was signed into law by the President. The products that
this law deals with were formerly called Incidental Forest Products because
the agencies involved did not see any appreciable value in them. This has
changed with the decrease of revenue from timber sales in the increase in
total market proceeds from the SFPs in the past decade.

While there are currently fees associated with commercial collection of
SFPs, industry insiders believe that the effect of this law will be to
increase the fees. There is very little profit margin for the labor
(collectors and buying stand operators) in the related industries at the
current level of fee collection. Take mushrooms for example:

The collector buys a commercial collection permit for each Forest Service
District or BLM Resource Management Area. The collector pays for this permit
whether or not they actually are able to locate any mushrooms. These permits
are not cheap, often around $200 per district and are not transferable from
one district to the next. The collector also pays for food, fuel, lodging
and vehicle maintenance. The collector sells to the person at the buying
station for whatever the market price happens to be that day.

The buying station operator gets a small commission ($.15 to $.25 per pound
for some types of mushrooms, up to $1.00 per pound for others) from the
wholesaler with whom they contract to sell the mushrooms that they buy. The
buying station operator either obtains a permit from the resource district,
again neither cheap nor transferable, or sets up shop in locations outside
of the forest requiring additional purchases of space rental and business
licenses. The buying station operator also pays for their own food, fuel,
lodging, vehicle maintenance, employees and takes the risk of degraded
products or unexpected market fluctuations.

The US markets are mostly for fresh, top grade products and are very
limited. The wholesalers ship most of the products to distributors in the
main market places of Europe and Japan.  As this is a world market, the
domestic industry is in direct competition at home and abroad with countries
that have few environmental standards and use cheap or slave labor, such as
China, to provide the same products. The market price is set by world supply
and demand, not corporate whim or domestic policy making.

Several weeks ago, some US Forest Service Ranger Districts here in Oregon
were approached about the availability of commercial permits to collect
mushrooms starting in March (morel season is JUST around the corner). Some
of these districts indicated that they will no longer be issuing permits for
collection of any type of SFP as a result of this new law. Due to the number
of calls that they have been receiving, some have relented and will issue
permits for at least this year. After the law is interpreted and rules of
policy are written and adopted over the next year, some districts will
choose not to implement the new rules and will stop issuing permits. The
Tillamook Resource Area of the BLM has chosen to do this due to the Clinton
Forest Plan (they have not stopped clear cutting, just personal and
commercial mushroom harvesting).

Of course, the result of intensive study could be that the fee requirements
are dropped or restructured. It would be beneficial to the collectors and
less expensive for the districts involved to issue permits that would be
valid for a set period of time and would transfer from district to district.
The BLM system in place in western Oregon charges pickers by the pound for
mushrooms. The permits usually cost 10% of the price at the beginning of the
season (traditionally the highest price of the season). This can be a real
hardship for the collectors when the market price of the mushrooms falls to
50% to 75% less than the season opening prices during the peak of the
season. The typical BLM SFP permit costs several times more for the staff to
process the paperwork than the permit costs.  It would cost less to stop
issuing permits and to let the industry regulate its own affairs (less law
enforcement costs).

The "pilot program" is supposed to "conduct appropriate analyses to
determine whether and how the harvest of forest botanical products on
National Forest System lands can be conducted on a sustainable basis."
Currently, it is difficult to manage the SFP resources as no inventory is
available and as in the case of fungi production, the inventory fluctuates
seasonally.  Perhaps it would benefit the resource managers, collectors and
buyers for the resource districts to issue free permits in exchange for
collection information that would be completed upon delivery of the
products.

If the fees are increased for commercial SFP permits, the real winners will
be the foreign commercial interests that will be able to sell their products
to our markets both abroad and domestically without the extra layer of
bureaucracy that this "pilot program" will require. The time for public
input may already be past but with pressure from collectors, buyers,
wholesalers and consumers on our congressmen and the US Forest Service
during the interpretation and policy making phase of the plan, the outcome
may yet be favorable.

Partial text of Law follows.

Rex Swartzendruber
www.netinfosys.net/rexs13/

(The final bill that was signed into law was HR3194 and has section 339 as
it occurred originally in HR2466.)

H.R. 2466 Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
Act, 2000 (Enrolled Bill (Sent to President))

SEC.339. PILOT PROGRAM OF CHARGES AND FEES FOR HARVEST OF FOREST BOTANICAL
PRODUCTS.

(a) DEFINITION OF FOREST BOTANICAL PRODUCT - For purposes of this section,
the term "forest botanical product" means any naturally occurring mushrooms,
fungi, flowers, seeds, roots, bark, leaves, and other vegetation (or portion
thereof) that grow on National Forest system lands.  The term does not
include trees, except as provided in regulations issued under this section
by the Secretary of Agriculture.

(b) RECOVERY OF FAIR MARKET VALUE FOR PRODUCTS - The Secretary of
Agriculture shall develop and implement a pilot program to charge and
collect not less than the fair market value for forest botanical products
harvested on National Forest System lands.  The Secretary shall establish
appraisal methods and bidding procedures to ensure that the amounts
collected for forest botanical products are not less than fair market value.

(c) FEES

(1) IMPOSITION AND COLLECTION - Under the pilot program, the Secretary of
Agriculture shall also charge and collect fees from persons who harvest
forest botanical products on National Forest System lands to recover all
costs to the Department of Agriculture associated with the granting,
modifying, or monitoring the authorization for harvest of the forest
botanical products, including the costs of any environmental or other
analysis.

(2) SECURITY - The Secretary may require a person assessed a fee under this
subsection to provide security to ensure that the Secretary receives the
fees imposed under this subsection from the person.

(d) SUSTAINABLE HARVEST LEVELS FOR FOREST BOTANICAL PRODUCTS - The Secretary
of Agriculture shall conduct appropriate analyses to determine whether and
how the harvest of forest botanical products on National Forest System lands
can be conducted on a sustainable basis.  The Secretary may not permit under
the pilot program the harvest of forest botanical products at levels in
excess of sustainable harvest levels, as defined pursuant to the
Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528 et seq.). The
Secretary shall establish procedures and timeframes to monitor and revise
the harvest levels established for forest botanical products.

(e) WAIVER AUTHORITY

(1) PERSONAL USE - The Secretary of Agriculture shall establish a personal
use harvest level for each forest botanical product, and the harvest of a
forest botanical product below that level by a person for personal use shall
not be subject to chargees and fees under subsections (b) and (c).

(2) OTHER EXCEPTIONS - The Secretary may also waiver the application of
subsection (b) or (c) pursuant to such regulations as the Secretary may
prescribe.

(f) DEPOSIT AND USE OF FUNDS -

(1) DEPOSIT - Funds collected under the pilot program in accordance with
subsections (b) and (c) shall be deposited in to a special account in the
Treasury of the United States.

(2) FUNDS AVAILABLE - Funds deposited into the special account in accordance
with paragraph (1) in excess of the amounts collected for forest botanical
products during fiscal year 1999 shall be available for expenditure by the
Secretary of Agriculture under paragraph (3) without further appropriation,
and shall remain available for expenditure until the date specified in
subsection (h)(2).

(3) AUTHORIZED USES - The funds made available under paragraph (2) shall be
expended at units of the National Forest System in proportion to the charges
and fees collected at that unit under the pilot program to pay for--

 (A) in the case of funds collected under subsection (b), the costs of
 conducting inventories of forest botanical products, determining
 sustainable levels of harvest, monitoring and assessing the impacts of
harvest levels and methods, and for restoration activities, including any
necessary vegetation; and

(B) in the case of fees collected under subsection (c), the costs described
in paragraph (1) of such subsection.

(4) TREATMENT OF FEES - funds collected under subsections (b) and (c) shall
not be taken into account for the purposes of the following laws:

(A) The sixth paragraph under the heading "FOREST SERVICE" in the Act of May
23, 1908 (16 U.S.C. 500) and section 13 of the Act of March 1, 1911
(commonly known as the Weeks Act; 16 U.S.C. 500).

(B) The fourteenth paragraph under the heading "FOREST SERVICE" in the Act
of March 4, 1913 (16 U.S.C. 501).

(C) Section 33 of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (7 U.S.C. 1012).

(D) The Act of August 8 1937, and Act of May 24[date missing] (43 U.S.C.
1181 a et seq.).

(E) Section 6 of the Act of June 14, 1926 (commonly known as the
 Recreation and Public Purposes Act; 43 U.S.C. 869-4).

(F) Chapter 69 of title 31, United States Code.

(G) Section 401 of the Act of June 15, 1935 (16 U.S.C.)

(H) Section 4 of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (16 U.S.C.
4601-6a).

(I) Any other provision of law relating to revenue allocation.

(g) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS -

As soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year in which the
Secretary of Agriculture collects charges and fees under subsections (b) and
(c) or expends funds from the special account under subsection (f), the
Secretary shall submit to the Congress a report summarizing the activities
of the Secretary under the pilot program, including the funds generated
under subsections (b) and (c), the expenses incurred to carry out the pilot
program, and the expenditures made from the special account during that
fiscal year.

(h) DURATION OF PILOT PROGRAM

(1) CHARGES AND FEES - The Secretary of Agriculture may collect charges and
fees under the authority of subsections (b) and (c) only during fiscal years
2000 through 2004.

(2) USE OF SPECIAL ACCOUNT - The Secretary may make expenditures from the
special account under subsection (f) until September 30 of the fiscal year
following the last fiscal year specified in paragraph (1).  After that date,
amounts remaining in the special account shall be transferred to the general
fund of the Treasury.
[END]






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