The US Department of Agriculture issued a statement earlier this month asking for comments on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) online portal, which aims to streamline the flow of information on regulations for agricultural items imported into the US.
APHIS is defined as follows on the USDA website:
“APHIS plays a critical role in ensuring the free flow of agricultural trade by keeping U.S. agricultural industries free of pests and diseases and certifying that the millions of agricultural and food products shipped to markets around the world meet the entry requirements of the importing countries.
APHIS ensures that all imported agricultural products from other countries that are sent to the United States meet the Agency's entry standards for pests and diseases of agriculture.”
Meet the online portal for Agricultural Commodity Import Requirements (ACIR). Importers can go online and use the portal to find out what requirements they need to meet based on the type of goods they're bringing in. Agriculture imports are divided into seven categories:
You can also conduct research based on various groupings, such as crop groups, port groups, and geographic regions. Importers who visit the site will notice that certain information is still missing, but the tool is planned to be completed in fiscal year 2022, according to the USDA statement. The goal is for this tool to eventually replace the USDA Reference Manuals, as well as a collection of additional data. (The manuals can be found here for reference.). The USDA is optimistic that this will make agricultural importation easier for customs officials and trade professionals. They list the following advantages for the many stakeholders involved.
Importers will be able to use ACIR to evaluate whether or not they need to apply for a permit based on the commodities they want to bring into the US. In order to process plant and plant product permit applications, the electronic filing system (eFile) for permits, licensing, and registration will employ the import required data as specified in ACIR.
APHIS is now seeking comments from importers on ACIR, as the first module, Plants and Plant Products not for Propagation, is in beta testing phase. As they continue to develop the tool beyond 2022, the feedback offered by users will be extremely helpful in improving the user experience and functionality.