Plant exchange options

Mon, 19 Jan 2009 05:25:35 PST
Hi Peter,
As a "lurker" to the PBS web dialog,I always find the conversation threads about plant exchanges interesting and when the annual plant, seed and bulb exchange starts to go full swing I think that it's important to remind the group about import requirements of transferring living plant material internationally. For many countries there a few restrictions while other countries have very precise rules. It's important to know what those restrictions are for successful plant material exchanges. I am not advocating what's right and fair nor justifying why it's necessary to work around the plant cops, but awareness, If for no other reason than to avoid loosing limited or rare plant material is always in one's best interest. 
In the USA, APHIS is trying to change many of the existing  requirements to allow plant movement while minimizing plant and environment  pest risk. It goes without saying that the USA requirements can be complex  and often lacking equality when not transiting through the commercial systems.  There are a few programs established such as the small lots of seed and the 12 plants or less that try to equalize between corporate growers and individual collectors. Usually phytosanitary certificates are required for almost all transactions. Sometimes these documents, when the right government official can be found, cost more than the plant material one is shipping. 
When sending to the USA, any plant material without a phytosanitary certificate, (unless the recipient has an appropriate permit), involves a certain amount of risk to loosing the material. The laws and requirements that are in place have been as the result of a previous problem.The requirements are not put in place to punish or exclude individuals, but some are outdated and the Department of Homeland Security continues to increase their presence in both mail facilities and small package  systems and the tools  the use to detect and find are getting more refined  and they increase the numbers of staff who are looking for anything not within the official processes. Even having the right documents may not be enough sometimes, but lacking them altogether, when the material is found it will result in the loss and destruction. Like it or not, DHS keeps records of infractions and they will investigate and follow up on individuals with a history of plant "smuggling" which is a term used when someone ships without the appropriate documents. Recently they have been accessing fines and penalties to the importer for the actions of the exporter. Under the current legal system the government has been winning cases of the importer not preparing the exporter sufficiently or ensuring that the appropriate documents are in the shipment and the rewarding the importer with stiff financial penalties. 
I always suggest individuals become aware and educated about how the process works then find ways to make it adapt to your own individual situations.
There is a saying in the anti-smuggling business. "We only catch the dumb ones and we are constantly training the next generation of smugglers". Personally I believe that it's much easier to learn how to work within the systems because in the end, everyone gets what they want.

I'll go back to lurking on the sidelines
Bill Aley

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