USDA Launches Offshore Greenhouse Certification Program

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Unrooted annual, perennial, and even some woody plant cuttings produced in growing operations outside the U.S. have become very important to the U.S. horticulture supply chain. In recent years, roughly two billion such cuttings have been imported to be finished here. But the cuttings are highly perishable, and any delays in the import process can lead to diminished quality or even product loss.

Beginning in 2017, AmericanHort has led an industry working group that developed a certification pilot program. Under the pilot, which is now being launched as full program, offshore facilities that are able to meet or exceed minimum standards for parameters like facility construction, sanitation, water, media, and pest management, training, and recordkeeping, may become certified by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and the national plant protection organization in the country of production.

Qualifying cuttings shipments will be inspected by USDA-APHIS at a much lower frequency than currently. Most shipments will be expedited through the import process without delay, analogous to the way travelers enrolled in the Global Entry program speed through the airport clearance process.

The pilot program was limited to four major cuttings producers with facilities in six Latin American countries. The program will now become an option for producers elsewhere, too. Shipments from certified facilities must:

  • Consist of only unrooted cuttings from the APHIS-approved taxa list
  • Be produced in an APHIS-certified facility
  • Be represented by a customs entry that was filed with APHIS CORE Message Set data

The latter point reflects a broader move by the U.S. government to require all necessary data associated with a consignment for import to be submitted electronically through a “single window” operated by Customs and Border Protection. This requirement is being phased in generally; it will be a requirement for the Offshore Greenhouse Certification Program to facilitate random selection of a low percentage of shipments that must be inspected to monitor program compliance. Though the pilot involved only inspection stations in Miami and Atlanta, all APHIS plant inspection stations will participate in the full program.

This has been an exciting and interesting partnership for AmericanHort, member breeder-growers, and USDA-APHIS. We are pleased to see the full program finally launching. Full details can be found here.

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