Importing seeds and bulbs and extension to related broader topic.

Lee Poulsen
Tue, 24 Feb 2009 22:05:26 PST

Thank you for this informative email. You seem to have confirmed most of 
my guesses. The existence of an MOU is news to me. Since MOUs don't 
depend on the signers still being alive to remain in effect, then the 
USDA/USPS MOU should still be the rule used for all foreign plant 
material sent via the foreign government's mail service. It doesn't 
matter that it is so old, each PIS can't implement their own 
interpretation but are instead supposed to abide by the MOU. (In fact, I 
think they're legally required to abide by the MOU.)

The Treaty of Berne does not apply to private carriers in either 
country. So I completely understand that plant material and seeds sent 
via non-governmental companies do not have to comply with the treaty 
requirements to get the package to its final destination without 
charging additional for the transport from the PIS to the final recipient.

But unless the 1919 MOU was revoked at some point, mail sent via the 
governmental postal services (which is the case for almost all the seeds 
I've ordered or traded from overseas) must be delivered to the final 
recipient without any additional charges to the recipient or the sender. 
We're talking about a treaty signed and ratified by the federal 
government and according to the U.S. Constitution, that becomes part of 
the law of the land. I would love to have a copy of that MOU and also 
have a copy sent to the Hawthorne PIS so they would know what is 
required of them.

If some other, private, carrier was used to transport the package, then 
I fully agree with you that I should also pay for the additional 
domestic postage from the PIS to my house, or drive over there to pick 
it up myself.

Something I don't quite understand is why Customs or whoever, despite 
not having sufficient staff to inspect every incoming package (how does 
Australia do it I wonder?), certainly should find it very easy to pull 
out every package and envelope with the green and yellow label on it and 
deliver them to the PIS instead of to the other final destination 
address, should that be written on the package. If not, they could 
certainly be easily educated to do so since the package has to be 
delivered to *some* address! If it were a requirement that the green and 
yellow label had to be affixed right next to the final destination 
address, it should be an extremely easy matter to deliver all such 
packages to the PIS first without any additional manpower required. Then 
according to the treaty, and not some mere MOU, the USPS would be 
obligated to finish delivering the package after inspection to its final 
destination with no additional charges. It seems to me a new MOU could 
be signed where Customs or whoever is required to deliver all incoming 
packages that have a green and yellow label next to the final 
destination address to the nearest PIS *first*.

As you mention, I do not want other taxpayers to have to pay for 
additional shipping charges for something I am purchasing. However, 
since the solution to this kind of problem was hammered out more than 
100 years ago, I'd like to take advantage of that treaty and only pay 
for postage once. It seems the suggestion I described in the previous 
paragraph would be a perfectly reasonable and simple method to comply 
with all the requirements of both the USDA and the USPS while also not 
having to lose the benefits of the treaty either.

I guess I'm mystified that this is such a problem for us in the U.S. It 
appears that most other countries I know about, seem to have a system in 
place that is much more straightforward and simple, and they don't 
require all this 19th Century need for paying separate postage for each 
leg of an international package's trip to its final destination.

Anyway, thanks Bill, for explaining what goes on right now. But really 
this problem should have and could have been easily fixed by now, 
without having to make it so difficult for the individuals using the 
import system. I am totally in favor of following the rules. I just wish 
that reasonable rules would be put in place. There are a lot of really 
smart people in the USDA; they should have been able to get this working 
at least as well as the Australians and others have by now.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USDA Zone 10a

WDA wrote:
> It's not my intent to just discuss importation but with temps in the 20's there are not to many bulbs in my yard to report out on. Since this is a topic that I deal with daily, and often to try and resolve importer's issues I will try to shed some light on the current postage issue and impact to imports.
> Several years ago- I believe around 1919, USDA and the postal service entered into an MOU, The postal service agreed in the best interest of the country that plant shipments sent by USPS could be removed from their service agreement, inspected by USDA and returned to the system. The MOU is still in place but both the USDA and USPS has changed a bit since then.  Back then USDA was the major importer of foreign plants both for experimental and evaluation purposes. I could be wrong about the actual date. It was however before I was born. I have a copy somewhere in my files I read a couple of years ago.
> Over the past 5 years We've been trying to deal with small carriers and their fee for service industry. We have several agreements and were are still trying to hammer out policy.

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