Today’s post, brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture, is yet another entry into the long and sad cavalcade of administrative incompetence that makes the life of exporters harder than it should be. If you have recently tried to export an “agricultural commodity” under the provisions of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (“TSRA”) you may have run into this problem. This would include trying to export an item relying on the general license in section 560.530 of the Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations which permits export of “agricultural commodities” without a specific license.
The first question is whether the item you want to export, say a container of wood clothes hangers, is an “agricultural commodity.” TSRA covers “agricultural commodities” which the statute defines as follows:
The term “agricultural commodity” has the meaning given the term in section 102 of the Agricultural Trade Act of 1978 (7 U.S.C. 5602).”
Cool, that’s helpful. Let’s see how section 5602 the Agricultural Trade Act defines “agricultural commodity.” So, here’s that definition
The term “agricultural commodity” means any agricultural commodity, food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as it is defined in section 1471(2) of this title and insects), and any product thereof.
Awesome: an ” ‘agricultural commodity’ means any agricultural commodity.” Your Congress at work. That’s why we pay them their salary and send them to DC to be wined and dined by lobbyists in expensive steakhouses.
Fortunately, OFAC’s TSRA application instructions tells you that you can figure out what is an agricultural commodity by going to www.fas.usda.gov and consulting a “list of agricultural commodities that qualify for export under the TSRA program.”
Now, if you actually believe that and go to the site mentioned looking for the list, no matter how well-honed your search skills are, no matter how strong the Google Force is with you, you will not find that list. It’s nowhere to be found. Of course, you might even remember having seen that list before, and you would be right.
What’s happened here is that some web geek at the USDA convinced the agency that it needed to redesign its website so, I suppose, it looks good on an iPhone or includes the latest CSS geegaw. And in this ridiculous process, no one at the USDA actually tried to figure out whether the new site was actually useful or retained vital information. Nope, looks good, they declared, and headed off to their cars or to Metro to start the long commute home to Virginia.
As a special service to our readers, and brought to you by the magic of the Internet Wayback Machine, here is a link to that list. We have uploaded the list to our server, so that it will remain available for your reading and licensing pleasure. And, yes, those wooden clothes hangers are agricultural commodities.
UPDATE: An alert reader has more of the Google Force with him than I do and managed to locate the elusive agricultural commodities list on the Department of Agriculture’s website. It’s here. You’d think that OFAC would say more in its application instructions that the list can be found somewhere on www.fas.usda.gov, but, of course, you’d be wrong.