The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is publishing a final rule to allow the importation of fresh lemon fruit from northwest Argentina into the continental United States.
Over the last 10 years, APHIS has thoroughly reviewed Argentina’s citrus production and packing practices and fully evaluated pest risks to U.S. agriculture. The review included a comprehensive pest risk assessment that was amended several times to account for new scientific information and address public comments. It also included site visits in 2007, 2015, and most recently in September 2016 to observe production areas, packing practices, and trace back abilities. As a result, APHIS has determined lemons produced in northwest Argentina can be safely imported into the continental United States utilizing a systems approach.
The systems approach would require a number of safeguards to be applied across the fruit production continuum to effectively reduce any risk, including: registration and monitoring of production places and packinghouses; pest-free places of production; grove sanitation, monitoring, and pest control practices; fruit disinfection and treatment with fungicide; lot identification and traceability to the place of production; and inspection for quarantine pests by the Argentine National Plant Protection Organization. Additionally, lemons from northwest Argentina would have to be harvested green within a certain time period, or treated for Mediterranean fruit fly in accordance with an approved treatment schedule. All shipments would require a phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration stating that the lemons have been inspected and found to be free of quarantine pests and were produced in accordance with the proposed requirements.
Publishing the final rule is just one of several steps that must be completed before Argentina may begin shipping lemons to the United States. APHIS and Argentina’s National Plant Protection Organization (SENASA) must now finalize and sign the operational work plan, which details the conditions Argentina must meet for every U.S.-bound lemon shipment. Additionally, SENASA will have to collect and APHIS will have to verify six months of fruit fly trapping data. APHIS will also have to verify that packinghouses have met the safeguarding requirements outlined in the operational work plan.
APHIS carefully considered all comments received from stakeholders and the public in its decision regarding any change to the Agency’s import regulations for fresh lemon fruit from northwest Argentina into the continental United States. The rule was published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2016 and will become effective 30 days after publication or on January 23, 2017. The rule can be viewed here.