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Hallie Pickhardt  (301) 734-0602
Jerry Redding     (202) 720-4623


WASHINGTON, June 21, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to amend its current citrus canker regulations to eliminate the pre-harvest grove inspection for all Florida citrus moving interstate and instead focus on sampling each lot of citrus at the packinghouse to ensure the fruit is disease free.

APHIS is proposing this regulatory action because a recently completed risk management analysis (RMA) concluded that a mandatory packinghouse inspection of commercially packed fruit provides an effective safeguard to prevent the spread of citrus canker. 

“Despite the fact that Florida is dealing with a serious citrus disease, USDA in cooperation with the state and industry has developed a science-based solution to preserve Florida’s vital citrus market while continuing to protect against the spread of this disease,” said Bruce Knight, undersecretary for USDA’s marketing and regulatory programs mission area.  “As Congress works on the 2007 farm bill, USDA will continue to push for science-based regulatory approaches that create opportunities for specialty crop producers, such as citrus growers, to expand market opportunities here in the United States and abroad.”

Under the current interim rule, which was published Aug. 1, 2006, citrus fruit destined for noncitrus-producing states must originate in groves inspected and found free of citrus canker no more than 30 days before the beginning of harvest.  APHIS officials then conduct packinghouse inspections as an additional safeguard to ensure that fruit shipments leaving Florida are canker-free.

The changes in the proposed rule are based on APHIS’ pest risk analysis (PRA) and RMA on citrus canker and the interstate movement of citrus fruit.  The PRA concluded that the risk associated with the interstate movement of citrus fruit that is asymptomatic or free of symptoms of citrus canker is negligible.  The RMA, which will be subjected to peer review concurrently with the public comment period and in accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidelines, evaluated several new regulatory options for the safe movement of fruit from quarantined areas.

Under the proposed rule, only fresh citrus fruit that has been inspected at the packinghouse, treated, found free of symptoms of citrus canker and properly packaged would be eligible for interstate movement to noncitrus-producing states.  To further protect citrus-producing states from any potential risk of disease, the proposed rule would continue to prohibit Florida citrus from being shipped to citrus-producing states and territories.

Fruit shipped within Florida would not require sampling and inspection as described in the proposed rule.  Florida citrus exported to other international markets must still meet all import requirements of the destination county.

For more information on citrus canker, please go to www.aphis.usda.gov and click on the citrus canker hot issues link.

This proposed rule is published in the June 21 Federal Register.

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 23.  Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0022, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238.  If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu; then click on “Submit.”  In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2007-0022 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

Comments are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and may also be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., 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.


Note to Reporters:  USDA news releases, program announcements and media advisories are available on the Internet.  Go to the APHIS news release page at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom.  Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically.  Send an e-mail message to lyris@mdrdlyriss10.aphis.usda.gov and leave the subject blank.  In the message, type subscribe press_releases.


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