The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with protecting the health and value of American agriculture and natural resources from the introduction of destructive plant and animal diseases and pests. USDA-APHIS processes permit applications for a variety of organic soil amendments/plant health enhancers from various countries for commercial purposes. These commodities have numerous names that typically are descriptive of their intended use, but the products typically contain living microorganisms and plant and/or plant parts that may have been composted or mechanically processed. Permits or other documentation may be required for entry of these products into the U.S. from foreign countries, and in the absence of these documents, shipments can be denied entry. The following guidance is intended to assist potential importers of these commodities. Individuals wishing to import these commodities must also follow the statutes of other regulatory agencies and programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), etc. State Departments of Agriculture may regulate fertilizers, and they may issue permits or other documentations authorizing the use of domestic products within their States. Please note that State Departments of Agriculture do not regulate foreign commerce, and their documentation is not sufficient for the entry of these products into the U.S.
What are soil amendments/ plant health enhancers?
Soil amendments/plant health or growth enhancers are materials that typically are added to soil, plants, or the plant-growth environment to enhance plant growth. These include fertilizers, compost, sludge, manure, microbes, additives, and others or combinations thereof. For regulatory purposes any material that meets this definition will be called ‘Plant Growth Enhancer.’
Plant Growth Enhancers (PGEs)
PGEs may enhance plant growth by various mechanisms. These include: providing supporting nutrients (fertilizers), and improving soil condition (i.e., adjusting the pH of the soil, improving soil structure and texture, aeration adjustment, and moisture conservation among others), or controlling or suppressing plant pests. These PGEs could contain organic and inorganic components, and could be of natural or synthetic origin. Inorganic PGEs are composed of synthetic chemicals and/or minerals, while organic PGEs are often composed of organic matter from plant/animal sources, and/or microbes. Thus, organic amendments may include materials such as manure, earthworm castings, soil, sphagnum peat, grass clippings, straw, wood chips, various composts, seaweed, guano, or naturally occurring mineral deposits (e.g. saltpeter), and living microorganisms among others.
Regulatory policy pertaining to the importation of PGEs into the U.S
PGEs have the potential to contain pests or plants and plant parts that present a risk to American agriculture and the environment. Therefore, release of these commodities into the environment could be detrimental to U.S. agriculture and the environment. APHIS regulates living organisms that could impact animal and plant health. These products could contain human and animal pathogens, which may be regulated by other agencies. APHIS has the authority to regulate microbial organisms that are biocontrol organisms or have biopesticidal properties. More information can be obtained from the Permits and Certifications APHIS Web site. Select link entitled, “Guidelines and Regulations for Microbial Pathogens Used to Control Invertebrate Plant Pests”
APHIS may also regulate many of the following components: microbial organisms, mollusks, arthropods, nematodes, plants and plant parts, noxious weed seeds, soil, earthworm castings and animal products such as manure and bedding materials. Animal products that may present a risk to animal health are regulated by APHIS Veterinary Services (VS). VS may be contacted by email at AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov or by phone at 301-851-3300. For information pertaining to soil, plant and plant products, organisms, and biocontrol/microbial biopesticides, contact APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 866-524-5421. Other Federal, State, and local Agencies may also regulate these products.
Permitting policy pertaining to the importation of PGEs into the U.S
What is not regulated?
From what locations are the PGEs regulated?
What information is required by APHIS to facilitate the evaluation and decision process? [Questionnaire]
Please Note: Answers to the questions can be supplemented with file attachments, photos etc. Also, follow-up questions may be asked.
Commercial sale of imported PGEs containing organic matter and/or organisms of unknown identity is not authorized unless the material has been treated to destroy all organisms, Federal noxious weed seeds, and other contaminants. These treatments are similar to those approved for soil. For additional information, see the APHIS Regulated Organism and Soil Permits Web site. Please contact APHIS before shipment of such materials.
For further guidance and permit requirements, please contact:
APHIS Web Sites
Outside of APHIS