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USDA Establishes a New Category in Regulations Governing Nursery Stock Importation; Plants for Planting Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Analysis

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*Corrected 5/27/11
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Alyn Kiel      (301) 734-5222
Lyndsay Cole     (970) 494-7410

USDA Establishes a New Category in Regulations Governing Nursery Stock Importation; Plants for Planting Not Authorized for Importation Pending Pest Risk Analysis

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2011 – With the publication today of a final rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is changing the way it regulates imports of nursery stock into the United States, also known as the Agency’s Q37 regulations.

“Protecting the nation’s food, agriculture and natural resources is one of the Secretary’s top priorities,” said Rebecca Bech, deputy administrator of APHIS’ plant protection and quarantine program. “These regulatory changes, crafted with input from our stakeholder partners at the State and local levels, reflect this commitment and allow our Agency to better prevent the introduction and spread of foreign pests and diseases.”

The previous regulations categorized imported plants as either prohibited (not allowed) or restricted (allowed under certain conditions). APHIS required restricted imports to be inspected, either in the country of origin or at the first port of entry, and be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the government of the exporting country.

The Agency, however, does 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 volume of plants being imported into the United States has continued to increase in recent years, as has the body of scientific information regarding emerging plant pests of concern. As a result, APHIS determined the Agency needed to update its regulations in order to better prevent the introduction and establishment of plant pests in the United States. These proposed changes to the regulations were made available for review and comment through a previous public notice.

Today’s regulatory change establishes a new import category for plants whose importation is “not authorized pending pest risk analysis,” also known as NAPPRA. Under the new rules, APHIS will publish a list of plants that it considers to be quarantine pests or hosts of quarantine pests.  Such plants will not be allowed to be imported until we have completed a pest risk analysis.  A “quarantine pest” is defined as a plant pest or noxious weed that is of potential economic importance and not yet present in the United States, or present but not widely distributed and under official control. The new regulations authorize APHIS to add taxa of plants for planting to the NAPPRA category based on scientific evidence that indicates that their importation poses a risk of introducing a quarantine pest into the United States.   APHIS will request public comment through a public notice before adding any plants to the new NAPPRA category.  The NAPPRA lists will be posted online.

Any person can request that APHIS conduct a pest risk analysis on any plant taxon listed in the NAPPRA category. After completing the analysis, APHIS will initiate rulemaking either to allow the importation of the taxon subject to restrictions, or, if the risk associated with the importation of the taxon cannot be feasibly mitigated, to prohibit its importation.

This action is published in today’s May 27, 2011, Federal Register and becomes effective June 27, 2011.

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