USDA Seeks Comments on Offshore Production

December 10, 2004 - 15:10

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently announced that it is seeking public comments through an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” on its existing imported nursery stock regulations. After the problems our industry has had the last few years regarding offshore production, this is something that could deeply impact us if the vote goes in favor of making product produced offshore harder to get into this country.

Nursery stock is also known as “plants for planting.” According to the International Plant Protection Convention, plants for planting are “living plants and parts thereof, including seeds and germplasm, intended to remain planted, to be planted or to be replanted to ensure their subsequent growth, reproduction or propagation.”

Under current regulations, all plants for planting are allowed to enter the United States if the shipment is accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate, is not planted in soil and has been inspected and found to be free of plant pests, unless the importation is specifically prohibited or further restricted by the regulations.

Possible changes to existing regulations include establishing a category in the regulations for plants for planting that would be excluded from importation pending risk evaluation and approval; developing ongoing programs to reduce the risk of entry and establishment of quarantine pests introduced through imported plants; combining existing regulations governing the importation of plants for planting into one section and reevaluating the risks posed by plants for planting currently prohibited. According to Claude Knighten, public affairs specialist for APHIS, this means that, after a number of tests and evaluations done by the USDA, certain plants can be banned if they are found to be at high risk of bringing disease into the United States.

APHIS uses an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to maximize feedback on ideas that are under consideration, specifically those regarding possible regulatory changes that may ultimately be published in a proposed rule. “Interested persons would then be given an opportunity to comment on a proposed rule. Before any changes become effective, APHIS would still have to publish a final rule,” according to APHIS. That means they are looking for your feedback on how the proposed changes would affect the green industry.

All major breeder companies based in the United States have offshore production in other countries with cheaper labor and land because it is much less expensive to produce stock plants and cuttings there. Forcing stricter rules on the importing of these plants could cause a lot of financial damage to the industry. Not only will the breeder/marketer companies be affected, growers would have to pay more for those products because production in the United States is much more expensive than in other countries. Now APHIS is giving you a chance to help prevent that from happening.

This notice is scheduled for publication in the December 10 Register. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before March 10, 2005. Comments can be submitted by mail, commercial delivery or E-mail. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 03-069-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238, or E-mail comments to regulations@aphis.usda.gov. E-mail comments must be contained in the body the message; do not send attached files. Please include your name and address in the body of the message and type “Docket No. 03-069-1" on the subject line. To submit comments online, go to www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for locating this docket and submitting comments.

Comments can be reviewed in USDA’s South Building, Room 1141, 14th St. and Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.

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