As the comment period on the USDA's proposal to raise user fees for agricultural quarantine and inspection services ended July 24, the agency has now reported nearly 250 comments on the regulation. As you might guess, many are opposed to the magnitude of the fee increase. If this were a straight vote, the USDA proposal would lose.
While a revision of the AQI fees structure may be needed, the structure put forth for consideration includes a proposal that would be could be highly detrimental to many of United Fresh’s members.
Currently, there is no fee charged for treatments such as fumigation, cold treatment, irradiation and heat treatment. Under the proposal, a new fee of $375 will be charged per treatment. That alone, is of course, a profound change, and among the changes in the overall proposal, the most dramatic.
Furthermore, AQI treatments are currently provided by private entities who then charge importers for these services. With the potential for private entities to impose charges in addition to the proposed $375, the burden on importers can become nearly untenable. Also, when importers incur costs from delays in the movement or inspection of product, coupled with the addition of a new fee, could also have a profound impact on the ability of business operators to remain viable.
These considerations do not seem to have been part of the agency’s calculus in determining the new proposed treatment fee. We urge the agencies to consider possible alternatives, such as some type of sliding scale based on utilization or risk; a graduated increase over the next 3 years; or an increase consistent with other proposed fee changes in this proposed rule. We believe these alternatives will aid in mitigating the impact on industry members who importer products
The FPAA understands that fees for AQI services have not been revised in 10 years; however, the FPAA has strong reservations about the drastic increases proposed so abruptly by APHIS.
Additionally, the FPAA has strong reservations about the potentially negative impact these sharp increases could have on individual businesses.