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APHIS Proposes Streamlined Approval Process for Imports of Plants in Growing Media

On 9 April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the publication of a draft environmental assessment aimed at simplifying approvals for importing plants in growing media (PIGM) into the United States. Interested parties may submit comments on this document by 10 May.

The APHIS systems approach includes safeguard measures put in place by growers, packers and shippers to minimise the risk of introducing plant pests into the United States. The environmental assessment would replace many of the country-specific requirements for different varieties of PIGM currently found in the USDA plants for planting manual and reduce the need for repetitive documentation of comparable risks from routine requests for the importation of PIGM.

The systems approach for PIGM focuses on pest exclusion, pest management and sanitation. The environmental assessment lists approved growing media and then specifies that growing conditions include production under a compliance agreement, use of disease-free mother stock or seed from that mother stock, plant growth in a sanitary greenhouse, water quality restrictions, and treatment at the time of importation. APHIS notes in the document that “the current PIGM program successfully mitigated pest risks for more than 30 years, with no recognized invasions or establishment of quarantine pests in the United States.”

APHIS believes this approach will streamline approvals for requests to import PIGM and facilitate international trade while still protecting against the introduction of plant pests. Detection of any quarantine pests on PIGM would preclude further importation of that plant from that specific country until revised phytosanitary practices are shown to be effective. The APHIS proposal does not change the enforcement of Endangered Species Act requirements, which would still apply to all plant imports.

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