Melissa O'Dell (301) 734-5222
Jerry Redding (202) 720-4623
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2006-The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today announced a proposal to establish criteria within its regulations that would allow APHIS to approve or reject certain fruits and vegetables for importation into the United States and to acknowledge pest-free areas in foreign countries using a notice-based process.
A series of public meetings on the proposed amendments will be held in Los Angeles, Calif., Seattle, Wash., and Miami, Fla., the week of May 23 and in Washington, D.C., on June 20.
The proposed process for approving imports would apply only to commodities that can be safely imported subject to inspection, treatment and/or certification that the commodity is pest free in the country of origin. The importation of fruits and vegetables that require additional phytosanitary measures would continue to require specific prior rulemaking.
APHIS will seek public comment on import requests by publishing notices in the Federal Register inviting comment on the findings of pest-risk analyses prior to authorizing any imports via followup notices. The proposed process is expected to simplify and expedite APHIS' evaluation process for approving new imports and pest-free areas while continuing to safeguard American agriculture and provide an opportunity for public comment on the science associated with such imports.
APHIS is also proposing to make other changes, including:
The public meetings regarding this proposed rule will be held at the following locations:
Onsite registration will take place 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of each meeting. Persons wishing to speak at one or all of the public meetings may register in advance by phone or e-mail. To register by phone, leave a reservation message at the regulatory analysis and development voice mail box at (301) 734-8138. Please provide your name and organization along with the location of the hearing you wish to attend. To register by e-mail, please send the same information described above to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write the location of the hearing you plan to attend in the subject line. Advance registration for the meetings must be received by 3 p.m., on the day prior to the meeting you wish to attend. Additional details, including parking information, can be found on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/Q56.
Notice of this proposed rule is scheduled for publication in the April 27 Federal Register.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 26. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS- 2005-0106, 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 and, in the “Search Regulations and Federal Actions” box, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu; then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2005-0106 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 viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:40 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/lpa/newsroom/. Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically. Send an e-mail message to email@example.com and leave the subject blank. In the message, type subscribe press_releases.