Importing Bulbs and Seeds

Adam Fikso
Mon, 26 Jan 2009 12:57:28 PST
I like your thinking, Ellen.... which leads me to ask: What was wrong with 
the previous system? From where I sit it didn't require a difficult password 
which was hard to type, tedious registration, and the Department of Homeland 
Security which might be better used without the proliferation of  rules and 
regs that seem to serve to no real purpose other than slowing down the 
system and making it more inefficient.  Inspection of incoming parcels of 
plant materials with the green-and-yellow sticker as an alerting and 
directional device  seemed to work well enough (from my point of view as the 
intended  recipient--but maybe not.)  The issue of inspecting contraband or 
its difficulty is not changed or ameliorated by my now having a password 
which I can't remember, and have difficulty typing even after I've written 
it down, because of the problem of shifting back and forth between 

Further,plant inspection stations (if they were to follow the USPS law as 
previously done and intended -- a matter of precedent) , regarding shipment 
on to the recipient without additional cost seems to have fallen by the 
wayside for many California inspection stations. Postage was previously paid 
for serrvice to the recipient, not to the inspection station. The 
intervention by the inspection station, even though it is a governmental 
body, (actually a privatized service operating under contract)  should not 
lead to ignoring  or overriding that international postal agreement, even if 
it is doing so as an arm of  Homeland Security.  Making the recipient pay an 
additional fee does not seem justified  as  a matter of Homeland Security, 
for defense of our borders.  But maybe we really are that broke. Dunno.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ellen Hornig" <>
To: "Pacific Bulb Society" <>
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: [pbs] Importing Bulbs and Seeds

> Diane - it was an APHIS inspector who told me that about Czech phytos (a
> voice on the phone) - I have no independent information.  It was a 
> response
> to my question about why plants coming in with a valid phyto needed to be
> reinspected.
> At the risk of exhausting my welcome, I want to make some (ultimately)
> positive remarks about this question of regulating and inspecting plant
> imports.  I do have to say, first, that it appears the system doesn't
> function too well.  Incoming legal plant material appears to be going
> largely uninspected, despite the apparent fact that foreign export
> regulation (issuing of phytos) is at best an uneven process.  Incoming
> illegal imports probably largely go undetected, because the first line of
> defense - identifying a package that needs inspection - presumably depends
> on the US postal and Customs services doing their jobs with greater zeal
> than, say, Debbie's informant says they do.  And if incoming illegal 
> imports
> all became legal via the following of existing regulations (remember, 
> import
> permits are free, though phytos usually are not), the system would be even
> more overwhelmed than it is.
> One tactic, which seems to be the currently preferred one, is to threaten
> people with large fines if they get caught.  My previous life as an
> economist leads me to observe that the expected cost of smuggling is
> measured by multiplying the probability of getting caught by the fine 
> levied
> if one is caught.  Playing with some arbitrary numbers here, if the
> probability of getting caught is as high as 1%  (I'm guessing it's much
> lower) and the expected fine is $2000, the expected penalty for smuggling 
> is
> (.01)(2000) = $20, which renders the smuggling of a single plant 
> borderline
> not-worthwhile - but if the probability of getting caught is 0.1%, the
> expected cost is only $2 (versus whatever the perceived value of the
> smuggled material is).  A very high fine (say, $250,000) should definitely
> discourage small-time smuggling, but only if people know with certainty 
> that
> it will be levied if they're caught - and from what I hear from the
> grapevine, penalties generally levied on individuals are much lower than
> that.  The only people who are discouraged from smuggling by POSSIBLE high
> fines are the same types who won't fly, viz, people who are so terrified 
> by
> the low-probability high-cost outcome that they don't look beyond that to
> see that the activity is (alas in the case of plants) relatively safe.
> The bottom line is that a positive, energetic, informative public 
> education
> campaign is about your only rational line of defense when you're woefuly
> underfunded and understaffed.  It's far more likely to get the attention 
> of
> a rational individual than is threatening them with high fines - it 
> appeals
> to their better natures, it's cheap, and it makes clear for them why what
> they're doing is wrong.
> And them's my thoughts this fine morning, and there I will end it.
> Ellen
> Ellen Hornig
> Seneca Hill Perennials
> 3712 County Route 57
> Oswego NY 13126 USA
> ----- Original Message ----- 
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