Government “to-do” list eyes imports, user fees

01/07/2014 11:35:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstAs it turns out,  the federal government has a “to-do” list. Who knew?

It isn’t called a “to-do” list at all and it is most certainly not a sleek smartphone app, either. The bureaucratic title of the document is “Introduction to the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.” 

The document states that “the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires that agencies publish semiannual regulatory agendas in the Federal Register describing regulatory actions they are developing that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.”

And so we have the latest electronic edition of the semiannual regulatory agenda, which is merely a condensed version of the complete agenda. I searched the document for fruits and vegetables and related topics, finding several items of interest.

Under the Department of Agriculture, I found these pending actions:

Proposed rule stage: Performance Standard for Authorizing the Importation and Interstate Movement of Fruits and Vegetables.

Explanation: In the area of plant health, APHIS proposes to expand the streamlined method of considering the importation and interstate movement of fruits and vegetables.

The performance-based process more closely links APHIS’ decision to authorize importation of a fruit or vegetable with the pest risk assessment and brings us in line with other countries that authorize importation of a fruit or vegetable with the pest risk assessment. Some countries have viewed the rulemakings for fruits and vegetables that follow completion of the pest risk assessment as a non-technical trade barrier and may have slowed the approval of U.S. exports (including, but not limited to, fruits and vegetables) into their markets, or placed additional restrictions on existing exports from the United States.

Proposed rule stage: User Fees for Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Services.

Explanation:  APHIS will revise agricultural quarantine and inspection user fees so that fees collected are commensurate with the cost of providing the activity.

This rulemaking would amend the user fee regulations by adding new fee categories and adjusting current fees charged for certain agricultural quarantine and inspection services that are provided in connection with certain commercial vessels, commercial trucks, commercial railroad cars, commercial aircraft, and international passengers arriving at ports in the customs territory of the United States. It would also adjust the fee caps associated with commercial vessels, commercial trucks, and commercial railcars. Based on the conclusions of a third party assessment of the user fee program and on other considerations, we have determined that revised user fee categories and revised user fees are necessary to recover the costs of the current level of activity, to account for actual and projected increases in the cost of doing business, and to more accurately align fees with the costs associated with each fee service.

 

There is much more to consider in the regulatory agenda, including less specific ambitions for food safety regulation and tweaking nutrition assistance programs. Based on my reading of the two items highlighted, it appears the USDA wants to loosen the reigns on phytosanitary regulation of imports while at the same time increasing fees for inspection services for those same imports.



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