How I got a USDA Import Permit
Sun, 02 May 2004 11:20:10 PDT

I filled out PPQ form 587.  This form is for plants and plant parts that come 
without soil.  So, it is mostly about seeds and bare root plants.  The Web 
page is:… .  You can 
click on the link for "PPQ Form 587," which is right under "1.  How to Apply."  
There is no fee; my permit was issued in 2-3 weeks.  

There is an FAQ, as well as other types of info links.  For instance, if you 
click on "Importation of Bulbs," you will find that you don't need a permit 
for bulbs (generally speaking).  However, bulbs must arrive free of soil and not 
looking diseased, etc.  

Oddly, I think you need an Import Permit for bulb seeds.  

There is a list of prohibited items that you can read about. Mostly, such 
items are hosts for diseases of great agricultural importance, and you can't 
import such plants from certain locations known to have the disease.  Thus, my 
current list says I can't import junipers from Europe, but that leaves me free to 
import them from Japan or Canada, etc.  

Other prohibited items are considered noxious weeds, things that kill 
waterways, or that invade farmlands aggressively, etc.  Don't even bother trying to 
import something on the noxious weed list-exceptions are very few and you'll 
never get an exception for a home garden.  

You can send an email to USDA for help in filling out the form.  But, my 
opinion is that the less you have to do with them the better.  Just fill the form 
out as best you can.  I put down the types of things that I thought I would 
import, a list of families, species, and garden names.  I just put them down 
line by line and filled in about 6-8 lines.  I put several lines like:  

A.  bulb species from several families including Amaryllidaceae, Alliaceae)
B.  palm seeds of multiple species
C.  seeds of permitted shrubs and ornamentals, including properly exported 
African succulents
D.  hobby type bulbs, garden grown (I guess this was not needed)
E.  permitted grasses and sedges for garden purposes 

For the ports, I something like the following:
NY, NY and Linden NJ, 
Orlando FL
Other appropriate ports
Most deliveries will be small items of a few seeds delivered via the mail 

As I understand the situation, the USDA is not really enforcing the Import 
Permit and Phytosanitary Certificate requirements right now.  This seems to be 
due to the several reasons: 1) not too many people pay attention to current 
rules, 2) import volumes are too large to police, and 3) gardeners have political 
clout (I wonder how many rich people and political donors complained they had 
trouble getting palm seeds, etc.).  

So, the new approach (the proposed approach) seems to be designed to increase 
compliance (encourage people to get an Import Permit) because:
A.  You won't need a Phytosanitary Certificate from the seed supplier (for 
small amounts), and
B.  The Import Permit is easy enough to get.  

Thus, by dispensing with the Phytosanitary Certificate the USDA is hoping to 
get better compliance (from hobbyists).  The rationale seems to be that the 
USDA wants to know who is importing, so that if a problem ever does happen 
(massive new disease problem in Tulips), they can contact hobbyists and talk to 
them.  It is all Big Brother to me, and I really don't think they need to know 
that much about me.  Yet, what can you do, if you flout the Import Permit 
requirement some suppliers may not send to you, or you might run a very small chance 
of getting a big fine someday.  

Of course, I'm not really sure about the "what and why" of USDA thinking; my 
musings are guesses.  



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