EU Deforestation Regulation's traceability requirements "nearly impossible" for US paper, wood pulp industry to meet

The European Union’s Deforestation Regulation’s traceability requirements will be “nearly impossible” for the U.S. paper and wood pulp industry to meet, 27 senators have told U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai , pressing her to push to ensure the EU’s rules target countries where deforestation is likely to occur.

The EUDR bans certain commodities from entering the bloc unless exporters can prove they were not sourced from recently deforested land or contributed to forest degradation. Companies that cannot comply with the law’s traceability rules, set to take effect at the end of the year, will be subject to fines and other penalties.

In a March 8 letter to Tai that was released on Monday, Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), along with 25 other senators (19 Republicans and six Democrats ), warned that EUDR’s traceability rules will be “nearly impossible for a significant segment of the U.S. paper and pulp industry to comply with.”

“The EUDR imposes a geolocation traceability requirement that mandates sourcing to the individual plot of land for every shipment of timber product to the EU,” the senators write. “In the U.S. , 42 percent of the wood fiber used by pulp and paper mills comes from wood chips, forest residuals, and sawmill manufacturing residues – wood sources that cannot be traced back to an individual forest plot.”

Deforestation is not an issue in U.S. forests, but the EUDR may still impose “costly requirements on U.S. exporters that will limit market access for the $3.5 billion in U.S. forest-derived products” entering the EU annually, they add.

American forests are “healthy and growing,” the lawmakers assert, calling the U.S. paper and pulp industry a global leader in sustainably managing forests and noting that more than 1 billion trees are planted in the U.S. annually.

“That is why we urge USTR to engage with their EU counterparts to ensure that EUDR implementation focuses on countries in which illegal deforestation is occurring,” the lawmakers said. “As USTR continues to engage with European regulators, we urge the agency to seek clarity on the EUDR’s traceability requirements, data reporting, and country benchmarking.”

USTR must also push the bloc to recognize the U.S.’ “robust regulatory standards” to protect the health of U.S. forests, which could in turn help U.S. paper and pulp producers comply with EUDR rules, the lawmakers argue.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) earlier this month pushed USTR to engage with the EU over the pending deforestation regulation, calling it a “non-tariff trade barrier poised to devastate soybean farmers in my state.”

“You must make this right by seeking appropriate revisions to the EUDR that will allow Missouri farmers to continue to access global markets, while managing their farms in accordance with best practices,” Hawley said in a March 1 letter to Tai.

The law’s “expansive” definition of deforestation would consider typical farm practices like roadbuilding and clearing dead trees as acts of deforestation, he added.

Others in Congress have sought to advance legislation aimed at reducing deforestation in U.S. supply chains. House Ways & Means trade subcommittee ranking member Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-HI) in December re-introduced a bill that would ban imports produced on illegally deforested land.

The “Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade Act,” would also direct USTR to create “action plans” to end deforestation in countries without “adequate and effective protection against illegal deforestation,” according to bill text.

The FOREST Act would only cover illegal deforestation, while the EUDR tackles all forms of deforestation. – Jason Asenso (