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Possible relaxation in U.S. phyto. policy for seeds

   There has been chat on various lists about the possible
relaxation of current USDA/APHIS policy on seed importation
requiring phyto sanitary certificate at point of origin.
Here is one such info message emanating from Joyce Fingerhut
of the NATGS:

Yes, changes are afoot.

Dr. Arnold Tschanz, of the office of Regulatory Coordination had been given
the task of dealing with our complaints regarding the phyto requirement on
imported seed.  We have been in contact about this issue since November of
2001.  Last word was that the regulation will be changed to allow seed to
enter the US under a permitting system, without requiring a phytosanitary
certificate from the country of origin.  It is possible that limits will be
placed on the amount of seed (by weight or by number) that can be imported
(per order, perhaps?) in this way.

I do not have the details about how the permitting system will work but,
roughly, the importer (including us plant geeks) will apply for a permit
from the USDA (can be done online) before sending the order (or seedex
request) outside the country (overseas or Canada).  We (importers) will
receive a permit and a green label, which both must be sent to the overseas
seed house or seedex (say, f'rinstance, Halda or AGS).  The exporter will
include the permit with the return order and affix the green label to the
outside of the envelope.  Based on these green labels, the contents will be
randomly (and probably only occasionally, is my feeling) inspected.

This permitting system, however it finally works, will place the burden on
the US buyer rather than the exporter and  remove any extra costs to either
the buyer or seller (permits are free).

The new regulation is currently in the hands of the regulation-writer.  When
it goes up in the Federal Register, as an Advance Notice of Public
Rule-Making (ANPR), we will be notified so that we can send comments during
a two-month period.  These comments will then be incorporated into a revised
(if necessary) regulation, which will again be open for two months of public
comment.  Any further changes will be made and the final regulation will be
made public and enforced.

So, we will have two shots at molding the new reg to our seed needs, all the
while keeping in mind that the APHIS regulations are in place for the
protection of the country's very vulnerable agriculture and nursery
industries.  Think of sudden oak death and the Asian longhorn beetle.

I hope we will all stay in touch, so that the word can go out as soon as the
new reg is up for comment.

Jim Fisher
Vienna, Virginia USA
38.9 N 77.2 W
USDA Zone 7
Max. 105 F [40 C], Min. 5 F [-15 C]

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