USDA Considers Change for Plants in Growing Media

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USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has published a notice and request for comment regarding importation of plants established in growing media.  For context, foreign-grown plants in growing media (PIGM) are generally prohibited entry into the U.S. with the notable exception of Canada.  This is due to the fact that plants in growing media are inherently more difficult to inspect, and are considered to pose greater risk of introducing plant pests and diseases.

Over the years, APHIS has specifically approved for import in approved growing media a limited number of plant taxa.  For plants/countries that are not approved, each time the agency considers an import request from a foreign country, it must conduct a pest risk analysis and a separate environmental assessment. 

At this time, APHIS has made available for review and comment a draft “programmatic environmental assessment” that would contemplate a standardized set of pest risk mitigations, thereby avoiding the requirement to do a separate environmental assessment for every plant taxon import request.  APHIS would still need to conduct a risk analysis, but it appears the proposal would greatly streamline the review process.

AmericanHort has generally not favored expansion of plant imports in growing media over concerns that a more liberalized plant importation system will increase the inadvertent introduction of harmful quarantine pests and pathogens, at a time when tools to respond are diminishing.

Comments on the draft are currently due May 10. AmericanHort has begun a review, and we expect to request a comment deadline extension given the fact that the proposal coincides with the spring business peak, limiting our ability to hear from members.  If you wish to review the proposal, you will need to review both the APHIS notice and the draft programmatic environmental assessment.  We welcome your feedback.

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