Importing seeds and bulbs and extension to related broader topic.

William Aley
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 04:36:40 PST
Think about one thing. If you have a label on a box addressed to a  
specific destination like a plant inspection station, why is someone  
going to pull the package out of the delivery system to deliver it to  
a plant inspection station?
I'm not sure about all of the legal stuff but the problem is that the  
postal service like USDA is a big organization now. In 1919 it was  
probable someone across the hall in Washington DC. The current  
Postmaster general?…
but according to current information it looks like he has his hands full
On January 28, 2009, Postmaster General Potter testified[2] before the  
Senate that if the Postal Service is not able to readjust their  
payment toward the pre-funding of retiree health benefits, as mandated  
by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the USPS  
would be forced to consider cutting delivery to five days per week  
during the summer months of June, July & August. However, the  
universal service obligation[3] and six day delivery are upheld by  
Congressional language within Appropriations legislation, so a  
reduction in service would require action in the House & Senate.

Usually plant shipments are pulled when they are not addressed  
directly to the PIS. It may seem unfair and that it  is a bad system.  
But if you use the USPS as an importer it is in your best interest to  
figure out what system works best for you. In the end after the plants  
finish their inspection you probably want them delivered ASAP.

I guess the problem is when the lable says Miami how does the USPS  
service know that you actually want it to go somewhere else after it  
is inspected?
> 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  
> - but the address label indicates that is the PIS
> recipient without any additional charges to the recipient or the  
> sender. The exporter paid to go from foreign to the PIS what is the  
> extra charge?

The fact that individual Plant Inspection Staff are creating systems  
that cause people to pay additional postage from the PIS to the final  
destination does not make sense to me either.
In the old days, like 10 years ago. Permit holders sent stamps to  
their PIS and the Officers would have paper files with the permit and  
when the shipment was released the officer would afix the correct  
amount of postage on the package to enter it into the postal service's  
But that became a problem with international air travel and direct  
flights and sometimes shipment would be diverted and instead of Miami  
they'd be inspected at Houston. Eventually an applicant would have to  
send ample postage to every PIS to make sure they were covered. Then  
there was the issue of accountability. Postage is legal tender. It has  
value and who is accountable for the postage sent to the PIS  but not  

The MOU was written before there were labels. Each label printed now  
has a bar code and that becomes a legal document of the permit.

I also scan all of my documents and email them to the company that I  
purchase from. I have to trust that they will put the right documents  
on the outside and all of the supporting paper work on the inside. It  
was a mess in a shipment of peony from Lithuania. There wasn't even a  
phytosanitary certificate that I had paid for. Sometimes you just  
don't win when depending on others to do what you pay them to do.

FYI, anyone can FOIA government documents- fill out the form and  
request it.

Also if you have issues write to the USDA and ask.…
I guarantee you will receive an answer, it may not be the one you were  
looking for but someone will deal with the question.

I deal with about 5  a week from folks that have problems with the  
system and require special  attention to help with their imports,  
problems or requests.

On Feb 25, 2009, at 1:05 AM, Lee Poulsen wrote:

> Bill,
> 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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