Importing seeds and bulbs and extension to related broader topic.

Tue, 24 Feb 2009 21:05:48 PST
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.

When you affix the label to the outside of the box and then pay for postage or delivery it is from foreign to the Plant Inspection Station. Technically your importer should not place your final destination on the box. Remember a certain warning about two moths ago, DHS (regulatory enforcement)was convincing OIG (lawyers) that the violations are the responsibility of the importers for not instructing the exporters on what the policy is... Anyway The contract that is paid for takes the package from foreign to the PIS. For years APHIS has paid to have the box or parcel go back into the system or we managed to just slip them back in with out anyone really complaining. Now that UPS, FedEX, DHL etc are in the business it isn't that easy anymore.
 So someone has got to pay for the postage domestic or from the PIS to final destination. Who should that be? the taxpayers? the private companies who are in the business of moving cargo? Or the importer of record?
That  is the dilemma.
It is not a USDA conspiracy, nor the PIS staff trying to "do" something. If they are getting away with something it's because the local system is set up in such a way that there is nor change from the "old system".
I'm not sure who these people are that is alleged to have done something. We are not requiring anyone to double pay for the delivery service. It is paying for the service you are receiving. We have on our suggestions to the importer that paying for each "leg" of the journey is a better method because the carriers are not allowing free rides any more.
I am somewhat certain that this is not grounds for a lawsuit because of a right or privileged has been taken away from those that got a "free ride", yes there is a MOU with the Postal service from 1919 -ish but many of those folks have left their position and the wold has moved toward a fee for service industry.

So how do you deal with it?

Realize when your plant material moves from foreign to the PIS that is an international shipment- in most cases a single bill of lading is established and your exporter pays for the charge- they may in fact charge you a flat rate of  or the actual fee. but is often from their foreign origin to the address on the label. 

You must make arrangements to have the package move from the PIS to your final destination as a domestic movement. There are many options to deal with this but you can pick up the plant material or arrange to have it delivered via an open contract with an accounting code. I for one don't think the tax payers should pay for it. Some feel differently, but usually when an importer is making a profit or seeking pleasure from that plant material, the postage is the price of business. In a Majority of the situations the tax payers front the bill for salary, building and operational costs of the PIS. There would probably fewer imports if a fee was charged for that service on top of postage, but at this point in time it is still free to take advantage of.
I'm sure that many would disagree. But how many people engaged in business for profit feel like they should do work for free because that would be cheaper for their customers? 
I'm not too sure about the Regan stuff or the conspiracy stuff, I'm sure those that believe in it have better contacts in the Government than I do. But the bottom line is pay for the services rendered. Ask your supplier what address they are paying the delivery to.

On the note about finding plant material that is not addressed to the PIS,  be aware that some gets through. The postage, carriers  and such are not staffed sufficiently to look at 100 percent of the boxes. Stuff gets through. But the odds are eventually plant material is found. And often destroyed by DHS when the address on the  package is not to a PIS when it's required to go to a PIS. Usually, from the people that call me to fix their problems like that- it's usually when you really wanted or needed the plant material or it's usually the rare stuff that always gets stopped. One calculates the risk and then makes personal judgments accordingly.

Personally when I ship internationally, I provide the labels to my supplier, and I have a copy of the FeEx account and have a separate label with my final destination that the PIS Staff will put on the box  after the inspection is concluded. I pay to have it delivered to me as a domestic movement.

"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 is because the exporter paid from Foreign to Miami not to NC because the address on the box was FL not NC. Who is suppose to pay for the difference from FL to NC? If the exporter charged you to go from foreign to NC How did the carrier know to drop it off via Miami. When the plant material is at the PIS and the carrier says here is not enough postage to go from Miami to NC I don't think the PIS inspector should open their wallet to pay for the difference, nor should the taxpayers. 

In the chain of emails, Byron looks as this as paying postage twice, where Paul is really right on about how the system works- 
We tried to make this information available. Really, were not trying to hide what we know. Our intent is not to prevent anyone from importing.…  look for Circular PPQ Q.37-2 12/ 2007 see # 5 The importer should make the necessary shipping arrangements that ensure plant materials under permit are delivered for inspection to a USDA plant inspection station. Movement of restricted plant material from the plant inspection station to the final destination is also the responsibility of the consignee and/or broker.
Failure to accept these responsibilities may result in costly delays at the port of entry and/or loss or deterioration of plant material,

...Regardless of the address on the green-and-yellow mailing label, the plant materials for propagation will be cleared at the first U.S. port of arrival which has an inspection station....…

I hope some of this is useful information.

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