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APHIS proposed changes to nursery stock regulations

Dear All,

You may or may not be aware that USDA-APHIS is proposing major
changes in the regulations for the importation of nursery stock, i.e.
what they are now calling "plants for planting", which means ALL
plant parts capable of growing - rooted and non-rooted cuttings and
plants, seeds, corms, bulbs and tubers.

This post is late in the day since the public comment period ends
Thursday, March 10, however I have not had a chance to write about
this until now for various reasons I will not bore you with.  First,
I apologize to those of you on more than one of the lists I'm posting
this on, but I think it's important to try to summarize the main
points of the proposed regulation that affect nursery and
plantspeople the most....at least my take on it after many readings
of same.  

It is VERY important that everyone in the nursery or green industry
get busy and read this document and post your comments; it's going to
affect your business and you might as well let them know about it
before the fact rather than after the fact when it is too late for
your comments to do any good.

To find the docket go to:


scroll down to:

Docket # 03-069-1  - APHIS-2004-0024  - Nursery Stock Regulations 

The docket is available in .pdf format

You can also read current comments online.

This is a complex document.

It appears that APHIS is caught between a rock and a hard place here.

* They seriously lack the information necessary to propose
intelligent and workable changes to the current regulations. 
* They are required by law to propose these changes. 
* They have a mandate to protect this country from ALL pests, of all
types, now known, unknown or as yet undiscovered.  This is not a
realistic goal, but it is their mandate by law.   
* They are also required by law to NOT adversely affect small
business and international trade by any regulations they enact.  
* They must also comply with the mandates of the WTO-SPS treaty.
* They are not funded for any new programs or additional personnel
nor does additional funding look like it will be available any time
in the foreseeable future.  
* They are requesting specific information from the public to assist
them in formulating changes to current regulations via the Federal
Register - a document read by few, but the primary way that they
currently announce what they are doing.  Thus, news of their
proposals takes a long time to trickle down to those most affected by

Most of the information they seek; indeed, most of the specific
questions they ask, can best be answered by those in the nursery
industry.  However, that does not mean that we can't add our input
from our own points of view.  If you know the answer to any of their
specific questions or if you have any advice to give them on how they
can obtain the answers they seek, please provide this via their web
form, email or snail mail. (See the end of this post for more
specific information on sending in comments.)

If you do not have time to read and digest the full docket, then may
I suggest that you post a comment requesting an extension in the
public comment period.  I understand that they are giving
consideration to this proposal. 

They are requesting information on the number of nurseries and the
number and types of taxa being imported today; they are requesting
input on how best to obtain this information.  They are trying to
find out just how their proposed changes would affect the industry;
whether (and how) or not their proposals for a Clean Stock Program
and a Best Management Program would affect nursery businesses.

Currently, unless otherwise prohibited, all taxa are permitted entry
with a phyto.  Given their mandate to restrict the entrance of all
pests, they are considering options for doing this including:

*  Using the criteria of quantity, considering taxa that are already
being imported in quantity to be considered 'safe' and permitted to
continue to be imported.

*  Requiring a PRA (Plant Risk Analysis) prior to entry for anything
that is currently NOT being imported in quantity.  They are concerned
that this would bury them in an avalanche of requests for PRAs, for
which they do not have personnel nor funding, so, to avoid this, they
are considering:

**  Restricting entry to plants already imported in quantity OR those
coming from an approved Clean Stock Program OR those going to a
nursery with a Best Management Program in place. The Clean Stock
program would be worked out with exporting nations and partially
controlled by them with APHIS oversight (no funding for this at this
point).  The Clean Stock Program sounds like it's a nice idea, but it
has serious flaws and it is highly likely that only very large
importers would be able to participate.  One nurseryman posted a
comment pointing out that the program only works for certain types of

**  Developing a list of taxa that can be imported - which would be
based on those now being imported in quantity.  All NEW taxa OR taxa
not now being imported in quantity would be restricted pending a PRA
(which is unlikely to happen quickly, given their funding
limitations). This is the Clean List that has been simmering on the
back burner ever since it was recommended by the Safeguarding group
about 5 or 6 years ago.

Given that they lack vital data, they are working from a 'quantity'
point of view in proposing to allow only taxa already imported in
quantity to be considered 'safe'.  This point of view favors only big
business and would be very detrimental to small nursery operations. 
It would also be devastating to all private individuals who wish to
import plants for their own use.  It would certainly put a stop to
all plant exploration and the introduction of new taxa.

From our point of view, as keen gardeners, the 'clean list' approach
would be a disaster since it would mean that ALL taxa not already
imported in large quantities would be severely restricted - even
those which have been safely grown in this country in small
quantities for many years.  

From the point of view of small nurseries, it would also be a
disaster because it would mean that newly developed cultivars that
are the latest and greatest across the pond could not be sold here -
the lifeblood of nurseries - 'new' - would stop.  The only way you'd
get the plant is via the black market which would put you at risk
since they are also proposing penalties for importers not complying
with the proposed regs.

They are also considering combining current specific regulations into
one regulation and ask some specific questions about the public's
views on this.

While I do not innately trust government agencies, it appears that
APHIS is truly asking for input; they need it badly and it appears
that constructive comments will be considered.  This is not the venue
to vent frustrations concerning their past or current policies nor to
ride any personal hobby horses.  Comments need to address what they
are requesting and the proposals they are making.  If you have
personal experience or scientific data to back up your comments,
that's all to the good.  

Now, all of this is only PROPOSED at this time.  It's NOT law. But,
something will become law - it has to; they have no choice.

In my view, no matter what you think about importing plants, pests or
any of the many other philosophical issues surrounding plants, it is
imperative that APHIS understand the magnitude of the effect of their
proposals on the livelihood of small nurseries as well as the ability
of keen plantspeople to pursue their avocations and interests. APHIS
has asked for input.  We need to help educate them.  They really have
no clue.

Someone posted on one of the lists that they didn't think comments
from non-US citizens would make a difference.  If you operate a small
nursery or green industry business that would be adversely affected
by the proposed regulations, your input could very well make a
difference since they are also bound by WTO-SPS treaty.  Your
comments, if also sent to your representatives in the WTO (World
Trade Organization), may be influential.

The main point is that ALL involved in the green industry need to
comment and ALL of us who care about our ability to acquire and grow
new taxa without going through onerous regulatory hoops need to
comment.  If you say nothing except "please extend the comment
period", your time will have been well spent.

The current comment period is open through this Thursday, March 10,
2005.  Comments can be submitted by postal mail, commercial delivery,
e-mail or using the form on the docket site:

Via snail mail or delivery service:

Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial
delivery comments to:

Docket No. 03-069-1
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71
4700 River Road
Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238 

Via email:
e-mail comments to regulations@aphis.usda.gov.  

E-mail comments must be contained in the body the message; do not
send attached files.  Please include your name and address in the
body of the message and type "Docket No. 03-069-1" on the subject

To submit comments online, go to


Click on any of the 'submit comment' links and follow instructions. 
If you have a long comment (over 2000 characters) compose it in your
word processor and send it as an attachment - see the instructions
for the types of files they can accept. It will then be posted as a
pdf file.

Marge Talt, zone 7 Maryland
Editor:  Gardening in Shade
Shadyside Garden Designs
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