Fearing a spread of pests through pallets and other wood packaging, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to create stricter regulations, possibly requiring use of fumigants.

According to an Aug. 27 notice in the Federal Register, the USDA is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the possible new pest mitigation measures, including the use of fumigants and the practice of pallet pooling to control pests that hitchhike on wood packaging.

The purpose is to decrease the risk of spreading pests, specifically the emerald ash borer and the Asian long horned beetle. Those pests pose serious risk to U.S. agriculture and forests, the USDA said in the Federal Register.

Comments from the industry and public are due by Oct. 26.

The USDA said the emerald ash borer and Asian long horned beetle have been linked to the importation of wood packaging material, but quarantines of logs, lumber and other unmanufactured wood articles vary and the USDA wants to create uniform regulations.

The agency said the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association reported 1.2 billion pallets are currently in circulation in the U.S. Options being considered by the USDA for managing pest risks associated with wood packaging include:  

  •  Requiring heat treatment or fumigation with methyl bromide for all pallets in the U.S.;
  •  Combining those treatments with pallet pooling; and
  •  looking at options to methyl bromide fumigation.