Importing seeds and bulbs

Lee Poulsen
Tue, 24 Feb 2009 11:00:51 PST
I'm pretty sure this is due to the USDA wanting to guarantee that all 
plant-material-containing mail gets routed to an inspection station as 
soon as it enters the country. The proper way for this to be done (and I 
believe the way it is done in all other countries that manage to divert 
all mail requiring some kind of inspection--such as Australia), is for 
some government agent (Customs?, Postal Service?, USDA?) to pull out all 
mail containing plant material as it comes into the country and divert 
it to an inspection station. This would be all the easier in the U.S. 
case because they could immediately pull out all mail with the green and 
yellow sticker on it before having to find any unlabeled plant mail.

Since this is not happening in the U.S. (most likely due to both a very 
high volume of incoming international mail and not having the budget to 
pay for the manpower that would be required to go through all of it 
properly), the easier solution--from the APHIS/PPQ perspective--is to 
simply require all plant mail to be sent directly to the inspection 
station (i.e., require that it be addressed on the outside of the 
package to the inspection station and NOT to the final destination).

And this is where the problem comes in. In the Treaty of Berne which 
created the Universal Postal Union back in the late 1800s, (and which 
the U.S. and virtually every other country and territory is a signatory 
of,) one of the very problems that it was intended to solve was the 
problem with how to pay the postage all along the way that a piece of 
mail travels in getting from the sender to the recipient. Apparently 
prior to the treaty, it was often necessary to affix postage for every 
country through which that piece of mail passed onto the mail 
beforehand. Under the treaty, every country agrees to deliver 
international mail to the final destination addressed on the outside of 
the package or envelope, and the *only* postage required is the initial 
amount paid by the sender.

What does this mean? If the address of the final destination (the 
recipient) is placed on the outside of the package along with the green 
and yellow sticker, regardless of what the USDA/APHIS/PPQ wants, the 
U.S. is obligated to deliver the package to that address with no 
additional postage required. If the recipient's final destination 
address is not on the outside, then the final destination according to 
the treaty becomes the inspection station address on the green and 
yellow label, and the Postal Service has completed its obligation based 
on the original postage that was paid. To deliver it beyond the 
inspection station is now a new delivery. Hence the postal service is 
within its rights to demand additional postage since its treaty 
obligations have been satisfied.

I wish the two agencies would just sign a Memorandum of Understanding 
where the Postal Service would agree that when using the green and 
yellow stickers, the "final destination" would be considered to be the 
recipient and not the inspection station.


Ruth Bierhoff wrote:
> "As far as I know the only USDA inspection office that requires the 
> additional postage as you mentioned, is at Hawthorne, California.
> This is not because of the USDA policy, but because the postmaster at 
> Hawthorne is not allowing the shipments to be forwarded without extra funds"
> Unfortunately, Miami post office interpreted the rules the same way. I had to pay for extra postage from FL to NC and no amount of argument changed their position. This has led me to re-think getting seeds from SRGC and AGS in future years.
> Ruth

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