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USDA Launches New Plant Import Regulations

Uncle Sam is at it again… imposing more restrictions that could greatly impact the US horticulture industry and the global exchange of genetics.  Although, in his defense, I think there is good intent…

In mid 2009, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) launched an initiative to create a third category of regulated nursery stock for importation (known in regulatory terms as “Plants for Planting”).  Until then, there were only two categories of regulated plants for planting that could be imported into the States: “prohibited” and “restricted”.  The new category, which is being called “Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Assessment” or NAPPRA, will include plants that research suggests are a threat or they could potentially be the host for a pest and, subsequently, could be a threat if imported. 

From the USDA AHPIS website:

Importation of Plants for Planting

NAPPRA (Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis)
Background: Until recently, APHIS’ Q37 regulations categorized imported plants as either prohibited (not allowed) or restricted (allowed under certain conditions) and did not require a pest risk analysis prior to the importation of a new taxonomic group of plants.  This differs from APHIS’ fruits and vegetables regulations where the importation of fruits and vegetables is prohibited until the completion of such an analysis.

Plants for planting can carry a wide variety of pests that are more likely to become established in the United States than pests that could enter through imported fruits or vegetables.  The plant itself also could be a pest.  It is important for APHIS to enhance its regulations to ensure that they provide adequate protection against the risk posed by plants that are being imported.

The new category for imported plants for planting lists taxa of plants whose importation is not authorized pending pest risk analysis (NAPPRA).  If scientific evidence indicates that the taxon of plants for planting is a quarantine pest or a host of a quarantine pest, we will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing our determination that the taxon is a quarantine pest or a host of a quarantine pest, cite the scientific evidence we considered in making this determination, and give the opportunity to comment on our determination.  If we receive no comments that change our determination, the taxon will subsequently be added to the new category.  This new category allows us to take prompt action on evidence that the importation of a taxon of plants for planting may pose a risk while continuing to allow for public participation in the process.

If petitioned, we will conduct a pest risk analysis for a taxon that has been added to the new category.  After the pest risk analysis is completed, we will either remove the taxon from the category and allow its importation subject to general requirements, allow its importation subject to specific restrictions or prohibit its importation. 

We will consider applications for permits to import small quantities of germplasm from taxa whose importation is not authorized pending pest risk analysis, for experimental or scientific purposes under controlled conditions.

On July 26th of this year, the USDA quietly published the NAPPRA list of 41 taxa that would be included and then gave the public 60 days to comment.  We were told that the comments would be taken into consideration before a final ruling.  Some believe that the 60-day comment period, which ended on Sept 26th, will create a “gold rush” affect that will have many folks rushing to import the affected taxa.  I guess we’ll see.

So what does this really mean?  It means that Canada growers, especially, are sweating the prospect of greater export restrictions and cost.  It means that more people will try to import certain plants illegally.  It means that folks like myself will basically have to ask the federal government to evaluate a particular Genus before I can import it…and then wait on a response.  We all know how easy it is to get things done with the government, right?  By the way, shouldn’t that Congressional super committee have the answers to our national debt woes in a few weeks?  So glad that there are a few select super people on super committees to help me run my life.  Thanks.

OK, getting side tracked… yes, Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Assessment….  well, what exactly is involved in these assessments; what’s the process for filing a petition, how long will the process take and who’s paying for it?  That’s what I want to know.  So, while I believe in the the spirit of this new regulation, I am still a little hesitant to praise it.

The List of NAPPRA Candidates for Host Plants of Quarantine Pests can be seen at:
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