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Proposed Rule

Phytosanitary Certificates for Fruits and Vegetables Imported in Passenger Baggage; Availability of a Risk Assessment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Proposed rule; availability of risk assessment and request for comments.

SUMMARY:

We are advising the public that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has prepared a risk assessment relative to a previously published proposal to require imported fruits and vegetables to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. The risk assessment considers the plant pest risks associated with fruits and vegetables imported in passenger baggage and the probable impact of phytosanitary certification requirements. We are considering adopting only the proposed requirements that pertain to fruits and vegetables imported in air passenger baggage. We are making the risk assessment available to the public for review and comment.

DATES:

We will consider all comments that we receive on or before July 24, 2006.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments by either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and, in the “Search for Open Regulations” box, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2006-0092 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically. After the close of the comment period, the docket can be viewed using the “Advanced Search” function in Regulations.gov.
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. 00-014-2, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. 00-014-2.

Reading Room: You may read any comments that we receive on the risk assessment in our reading room. The reading room is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming.

Other Information: Additional information about APHIS and its programs is available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Mr. Robert L. Griffin, Director, Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory, Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, PPQ, APHIS, 1017 Main Campus Drive Suite 1550, Raleigh, NC 27606-5202; (919) 513-1590.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

The Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701-7772 and 7781-7786) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to prohibit or restrict the importation and entry into the United States of any plants and plant products, including fruits and vegetables, to prevent the introduction of plant pests or noxious weeds into the United States. Under this authority, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers regulations in “Subpart-Fruits and Vegetables” (7 CFR 319.56 through 319.56-8) that prohibit or restrict the importation of fruits and vegetables into the United States from certain parts of the world to prevent the introduction and dissemination of plant pests.

The regulations require some fruits and vegetables to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate (PC) to ensure freedom from certain plant pests. PCs are in wide use in international trade. APHIS issues hundreds of thousands of PCs each year to facilitate the export of U.S. agricultural products to countries that require certificates to accompany such products.

On August 4, 1995, we published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register (60 FR 39888-39889, Docket No. 95-046-1). The 1995 advance notice of proposed rulemaking sought comments on whether all fruits and vegetables imported into the United States should be accompanied by a PC. This included commercial shipments of fruits and vegetables as well as produce brought into the United States by individuals for personal use.

On August 29, 2001, we published in the Federal Register (66 FR 45637-45648, Docket No. 00-014-1) a proposal to amend the regulations to require that a PC accompany all fruits and vegetables imported into the United States, with certain exceptions. We proposed to require a PC for commercial shipments of produce imported into the United States, as well as for fruits and vegetables brought in by most travelers. We proposed to exempt fruits and vegetables that are dried, cured, frozen, or processed, as well as fruits and vegetables that individuals bring into the United States for personal use through land border ports located along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

We solicited comments concerning our proposal for 60 days ending October 29, 2001. We received a total of 47 comments by that date from domestic growers, importers, and other shippers of fruits and vegetables; farm bureaus, marketing associations, and trade associations; State departments of agriculture; foreign governments; and others. A majority of the comments received generally opposed the proposed rule. A smaller number of comments supported the concept of requiring PCs, but took exception with certain provisions in the proposal.

Several commenters who opposed the proposed rule stated that they did not believe that the risk-reduction benefits of requiring PCs were justified by the potential costs to commercial fruit and vegetable producers, importers, and others of complying with the requirements. Commenters also claimed that requiring phytosanitary certificates Start Printed Page 29847without a risk analysis that considers that broad use would be inconsistent with international trade agreements. In response to these comments, at this time, we are considering adopting only the proposed requirements that pertain to fruits and vegetables imported in air passenger baggage and have prepared a risk assessment that provides the basis for that approach.

The risk assessment that we prepared pertains to the plant pest risk posed by fruits and vegetables imported in air passenger baggage. We are making the risk assessment, titled “Qualitative Assessment of Plant Pest Risk Associated with Fruits and Vegetables in Passenger Baggage and the Probable Impact of Phytosanitary Certification Requirements,” available to the public for review and comment. We will consider all comments that we receive on or before the date listed under the heading DATES at the beginning of this notice.

After reviewing the comments, if it still appears to be an appropriate course of action, we anticipate issuing a final rule to PCs for fruits and vegetables imported for personal use by air passengers. We may at some future time, reconsider some of the other provisions discussed in the original proposed rule, such as requiring PCs for certain commercial shipments.

The risk assessment may be viewed on the Internet on the Regulations.gov Web site (see ADDRESSES above for instructions for accessing Regulations.gov). You may also request paper copies of the risk assessment by calling or writing to the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. Please refer to the title of the risk assessment when requesting copies. The risk assessment is also available for review in our reading room (information on the location and hours of the reading room is provided under the heading ADDRESSES at the beginning of this notice).

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Authority: 7 U.S.C. 450, 7701-7772, and 7781-7786; 21 U.S.C. 136 and 136a; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3.

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Done in Washington, DC, this 18th day of May 2006.

W. Ron DeHaven,

Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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[FR Doc. E6-7923 Filed 5-23-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-34-P