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Streamlining Fruits and Vegetables Final Rule FAQ's

Establishing a Performance Standard for Authorizing the Importation and Interstate Movement of Fruits and Vegetables [Expansion of the Current APHIS Streamlining Rule]


What is APHIS changing?

APHIS is streamlining the approval process for all fruit and vegetable imports by expanding the use of the notice-based process that is currently used to authorize some fruit and vegetable imports to all fruit and vegetable imports.  APHIS is also moving the region- and commodity-specific phytosanitary import and interstate movement requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR 318.13 and 7 CFR 319.56) to the Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements (FAVIR) database, and the Hawaii and Puerto Rico Manuals.

What is a notice-based process?

Under the notice-based process, we would no longer amend 7 CFR 318.13 and 319.56 each time APHIS approved a new fruit or vegetable import. Instead, we would publish approved commodities and their import requirements in a Federal Register notice and document them in the Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirement (FAVIR) database and in the Hawaii and Puerto Rico Manuals. 

Why is APHIS making these changes?

Currently, import and interstate movement requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables are codified in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), with very limited exceptions. This slows down our ability to respond to new import requests if the region- or commodity-specific import requirements have to be established or adjusted each time through rulemaking. It also means that even minor changes to existing regulatory requirements for the importation of a fruit or vegetable require rulemaking.

How will the changes improve the import request process?

Currently, APHIS has an estimated 200 new market access requests for fresh fruits and vegetables, of which a large percentage would require rulemaking under the current regulations. This final rule eliminates the need for rulemaking,which will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to approve the entry of fruit and vegetable imports from 18  to 24 months to 5 to 12 months, on average.

Is APHIS already authorizing some fruit and vegetable imports using a streamlined, notice-based process?

Yes. In 2007, APHIS published a rule that established a notice-based process for approving the importation of some fruits and vegetables. Under the 2007 rule, fruit and vegetable imports that do not have region- or commodity-specific phytosanitary import requirements codified in 7 CFR 319.56 may be authorized for import under a notice-based process if they meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Inspected at the first port of entry in the United States;
  • Imported from a designated pest free area;
  • Treated per the requirements outlined in 7 CFR 305;
  • Inspected at the country of origin by an inspector or official of the exporting country; or
  • Imported as a commercial shipment only.

In 2009, APHIS expanded the notice-based process to include the movement of fruits and vegetables from Hawaii and U.S. Territories (Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) to the U.S. mainland.

Does this rule change the designated phytosanitary measures established under the 2007 rule?

Yes. It expands the designated phytosanitary measures that can be used to safely import approved fruits and vegetables. The new measures are:

  • Phytosanitary treatments, such as pest control treatments in the field or growing site, and post- harvest treatments;
  • Growing area pest mitigations, such as detection surveys, trapping requirements, pest exclusionary structures, and field inspections;
  • Safeguarding and movement mitigations, such as safeguarded transport, box labeling, limited distribution, insect-proof boxes, and importation as commercial consignments only;
  • Administrative mitigations, such as registered fields or orchards, registered growing sites, registered packinghouses, inspection in the country of origin by an inspector or an official of the national plant protection organization of the exporting country, and operational workplan monitoring; or
  • Other measures deemed appropriate by the Administrator.

When is this rule in effect?

The final rule was published September 14, 2018 and will be effective October 15, 2018.

Market Access Process Following the Final Rule

Will the final rule change the science-based process APHIS uses to approve fruit and vegetable import requests?

No. All fruit and vegetable import requests would continue to undergo the same science-based approval process that is conducted under the current rulemaking process, including completing pest risk assessments on new commodities prior to approving market access. Expanding the use of the notice-based process would simply shorten the amount of time it takes to draft and review regulatory documents regarding new fruit and vegetable requests. Time savings associated with the notice-based process occur during regulatory drafting and review, not risk assessment. 

Will there still be a public comment period? Will comments be formally addressed?

Yes. Under the notice-based process, APHIS will publish an initial notice and a final notice for each import request. Similar to a proposed rule, the public would have at least 60 days to provide comments once the initial notice is published in the Federal Register. APHIS will respond to comments on the initial notice in the same manner it responds to comments on a proposed rule. All substantive comments will be addressed in the final notice, which will be published prior to issuing any import permits for that commodity. In addition, if a pest risk assessment (PRA) is developed, APHIS will make the PRA available via the APHIS Stakeholder Consultation Website for 30 days prior to publishing the initial notice. This informal consultation has been part of APHIS’ processes for several years and will not change as a result of this rule.

Are Federal Register notices subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)?

OMB will continue to exercise oversight of APHIS actions under the notice-based process. Specifically, APHIS will notify OMB of all initial and final notices before they are published in the Federal Register. This step will ensure that OMB officials have an opportunity to consider pending commodity import or interstate movement approvals before they are finalized.

Will APHIS conduct economic analyses under the notice-based process?

APHIS will prepare economic documentation for all notices. This document will compare the expected import volume of the commodity against domestic production and volume of imports from other countries in order to determine whether economic impacts are expected to exceed $100 million annually. In the unlikely event impacts exceed this threshold, APHIS will prepare all documentation required by Executive Order 12866 for economically significant actions. During the pest risk assessment, APHIS will also continue to evaluate possible economic consequences of pest introduction if no restrictions were placed on the importation of the commodity.

Is rulemaking still an option for authorizing commodities?

Rulemaking is not an option under this final rule.

Impact on Existing Imports

Does this rule alter any existing import requirements for previously authorized fruits and vegetables?

This is a procedural rule. It does not change the import requirements for any previously authorized fruit or vegetable imports.For 74 commodities, however, moving the requirements from the CFR to the APHIS website entailed minor revisions to the phytosanitary certificates for these commodities. The phytosanitary certificates had pointed to sections of the CFR that are now obsolete.

APHIS has alerted foreign countries and port of entry personnel to these changes and provided guidance to facilitate the transition. APHIS does not anticipate any delays at ports of entry due to these changes.

Will the final rule alter the commodity clearance process at ports of entry?

No, this final rule does not alter the commodity clearance process at ports of entry. Under 7 CFR 319.56-3(d), all imported fruits or vegetables are subject to inspection. They may also be subject to disinfection at the port of first arrival as required by an inspector or to re-inspection at other locations at the option of an inspector.

Will this final rule change the import approval process for plants for planting?

No. The final rule will expand the use of the notice-based process to all fruit and vegetable imports. It does not apply to plants for planting.

Impact on FAVIR and Other Manuals

Does this rule change FAVIR?

Yes. In order to accommodate some requirements that were previously found only in the CFR, we have added an “Additional Requirements” section to some of the commodity pages in FAVIR.  This new section contains the import requirements that were formerly codified in the CFR and moved to FAVIR.

Does this rule change the Fruit and Vegetable Manual?

Effective October 15, 2018, APHIS will discontinue the Fruit and Vegetable manual. All import requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables will be available in FAVIR.

Does this rule impact any other manuals?

In addition to updating FAVIR, we will also update the Hawaii and the Territories and Puerto Rico and USVI manuals to include requirements that were previously found only in the CFR. Please direct any inquiries regarding these manuals changes to Carol Kreger (Email: Carol.M.Kreger@aphis.usda.gov or by telephone 301-851-2356).

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