USDA import permit

Lee Poulsen wlp@Radar-Sci.Jpl.Nasa.Gov
Tue, 23 Mar 2004 16:56:13 PST
On Mar 23, 2004, at 2:17 PM, Claude Sweet wrote:
> Can anyone advise if a USDA importation permit is required for green  
> plants, such as clivia, or for dormant bulbs  obtained from South  
> Africa?
> I understand a Phytosanitary Certificate is required.
> Claude Sweet
> San Diego, CA

On the webpage "Agriculture Permits for Nursery Stock (incl. seeds)"
it says:
  USDA requires permits for the importation of admissible nursery stock,  
plants, and roots not subject to postentry quarantine, and seeds of  
trees and shrubs, and also seeds covered in Part 319.37-6 under the  
authority of 7 CFR 319.37. In addition a Phytosanitary Certificate must  
accompany all propagative material."

Based on the above paragraph plus the following 'page, almost all seeds  
except for those of trees or shrubs, or those explicitly prohibited  
(listed on the following 'page as well), or those of plants listed on  
CITES, are allowed in *without* an import permit. Seeds of almost all  
trees and shrubs are allowed in with an import permit. Currently all  
seeds, with or without an import permit, require a phytosanitary issued  
by the country from which they are sent to accompany them. When the new  
rule is finally issued, small lots of all allowable seeds will be  
allowed in without requiring a phytosanitary certificate.
"Entry Status of Seeds for Planting"

Finally, almost all bulbs do not require an import permit, but do  
require an accompanying phytosanitary certificate. See:
"Importation of Bulbs" (PDF file)

Lastly, a (U.S.) import permit is easy to apply for and costs nothing,  
and lasts 5 years between renewals. So I think it is very useful to get  
one anyway. Just fill in this form and send it in. (There used to be an  
online page where you could apply for this permit, but I couldn't find  
the 'page anymore.)
PPQ Form 587 - "Application for Permit to Import Plants or Plant  

For non-prohibited live "green" plants (plants with leaves), both an  
import permit number and an accompanying phytosanitary certificate are  
required. The permit is easy to get but the phyto is where you run into  
problems. You have to get an agric. agent of the sending country to  
inspect your plant(s) and issue the certificate. Some countries charge  
for this. Some charge a lot. In some countries you can have this done  
at the airport if you're bringing the plant back with you. Otherwise,  
you or the sender will have to go where the agent is for the inspection  
or someone will have to get an agent to visit them. I've heard that in  
some countries it's a big hassle. I've brought back stuff from Japan  
and all I needed to do was call the airport ahead of time to let them  
know I needed an inspection and when I would be there. It was free. The  
bigger problem was at the U.S. end. If I had more than a handful of  
plants or several different species, they would take them away to be  
inspected later at a different facility, after which I had to go back  
to the facility to retrieve them a few days later. So I had to be sure  
there was plenty of moisture in the material packed around the roots to  
last the plant for up to a week, especially if a weekend or holiday  
intruded or they were especially busy. I also just learned that some  
countries, such as Australia, want to charge you for an *export* permit  
as well, even for one plant! (I think Australia charges for everything,  
and they charge quite a lot too.)

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena area, California, USDA Zone 9-10

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