The U.S. can either annex Canada or fruit and vegetable imports from Canada will soon be subject to user fees for agricultural and quarantine inspections at the border.  The unified regulatory agenda of the U.S. – found at the Web site www.reginfo.gov  - states that sometime in the spring of 2009, the USDA will finally make effective a rule that was published as an interim final rule in 2006 that will remove Canada’s exemption for fees. The rule was delayed because of concerns, among other things, that the change would add to delays at the border. The USDA delayed the rule, it said, to provide opportunities for Canada to implement risk mitigation procedures that would lower inspection costs.

Here is an excerpt from a 2006 analysis of why the rule needed to be changed:

APHIS has reevaluated its agricultural quarantine and inspection (AQI) activities at the U.S./Canada border, given increasing levels of trade, particularly the re-export of third-country products from Canada to the United States.  The need for a reevaluation was underscored by three extensive inspection operations along the U.S./Canada border (two in Buffalo, NY, and at Blaine, WA).  These inspection “blitzes” resulted in numerous interceptions of unauthorized material produced in regions other than the United States and Canada. Prohibited or restricted articles that were found included untreated Argentine citrus, mangoes, tropical fruits from Asia, and many other commodities of third-country origin such as meat, live birds, and plants in soil.  Plant pests such as fruit flies, scales, and several species of mealy bugs were also intercepted.
Due to the quantity of prohibited material found during the inspection blitzes and the implied pest risks, APHIS is removing the exemption from inspection of fruit and vegetable products imported from Canada.  APHIS is also removing the user fee exemption for commercial vessels, commercial trucks, commercial railroad cars, commercial aircraft, and international passengers entering the United States from Canada, so that APHIS can recover the costs associated with inspecting these conveyances and passengers.  Thirdly, AQI inspections will be expanded at the U.S./Canada border.


More background:


Agricultural trade between Canada and the United States has always been relatively unrestricted by phytosanitary regulations due to the similar pest regimes that exist in the two countries.  However, due to globalization and NAFTA, more goods are now being imported from Canada that are not produced in Canada and that may pose a risk to U.S. agriculture.  From 1995 to 2006, fruit and vegetable exports to the U.S. from Canada increased 80 percent while re-exports have increased 336 percent (table 1).  In 2005, Canada re-exported $18 million worth of vegetables and $9 million worth of fruits and nuts to the U.S.   In addition, opportunities to smuggle goods across the border have increased as the volume of commercial traffic and number of air passengers have increased.  The incentive to commingle foreign goods with Canadian produced goods has increased due to reduced tariffs for Canadian produced goods.

On staffing


Along the U.S./Canada border, 82 ports are staffed by a total of 700 CBP inspectors, which is 200 fewer inspectors than 20 years ago despite a 252 percent increase in trade with Canada between 1985 and 2000.  As a consequence of this decline in staffing, half of the primary inspection booths in the states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Maine are kept closed.  CBP currently staffs only 14 U.S./Canada border ports with a total of 65 officers and supervisors.  Nearly one-half of these individuals are stationed in Blaine WA, which leaves a mere 34 persons to cover the remaining border ports.  In many cases this leads to the necessity of assigning a single officer to several ports, and requires these officers to spend the majority of their time traveling rather than doing inspections.  Moreover, the majority of CBP personnel stationed along the U.S./Canada border work between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, although most agricultural products enter the U.S. during the night.

Projected user fees


Surface conveyances.  Under rule changes to 9 CFR 319, all trucks and trains transporting goods from Canada to the U.S. will be subject to border inspection.  A user fee of $5.25 per crossing or $105 for the year will be charged to each truck in FYs 2006 and 2007 (table 2).  A user fee of $7.50 per crossing will be charged to each loaded rail car in FY 2006; in FY 2007, the fee will be $7.75.
Trucks, trains and all other surface modes of conveyance transported approximately $458 billion worth of goods across the U.S./Canada border in 2005.   While agricultural shipments are expected to be the focus of border inspections, all commercial conveyances crossing the border will be subject to inspection and user fees. 


TK: From the Unified Regulatory Agenda, here is the most recent note about Agricultural Inspection and AQI User Fees Along the U.S./Canada Border.


This action will amend the foreign quarantine and user fee regulations by removing the exemptions from inspection for fruits and vegetables grown in Canada and the exemptions from user fees for commercial vessels, commercial trucks, commercial railroad cars, commercial aircraft, and international air passengers entering the United States from Canada. As a result of this action, all agricultural products imported from Canada will be subject to inspection, and commercial conveyances, as well as airline passengers arriving on flights from Canada, will be subject to inspection and user fees. We are taking this action in part because we are not recovering the costs of our current inspection activities at the U.S./Canada border. In addition, our data show an increasing number of interceptions on the U.S./Canada border of prohibited material that originated in regions other than Canada that presents a high risk of introducing plant pests or animal diseases into the United States. These findings, combined with additional Canadian airport preclearance data on interceptions of ineligible agricultural products approaching the U.S. border from Canada, strongly indicate that we need to expand and strengthen our pest exclusion and smuggling interdiction efforts at that border. In order to do this and to recover the costs of our existing inspection activity, we need to collect user fees from commercial conveyances and international air passengers entering the United States from Canada.


 


TK: As a rule,  U.S. grower associations and other exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables to the U.S. support the harmonization of agricultural inspection and quarantine inspection fees. Here is a representative comment from John Keeling of The National Potato Council in November of 2006 on the federal docket.

The NPC strongly supports the implementation of this interim rule to remove the exemption for Canada relating to AQI user fees and fruit and vegetables subject to inspection.  The NPC has urged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture implement this requirement for some time.  Dangers from invasive pests and diseases are increasing.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is doing as well as it can given its limited resources in preparing for and dealing with these threats.  Appropriated funds are difficult to come by in the U.S. and would be difficult to justify given that all other countries are subject to AQI user fees.  This proposal provides our government with significant new resources, tools and authority to further safeguard our potato growers from invasive pests and diseases.  It is understood that this rule would be implemented in a manner that would not result in any slow down in trade or traffic flowing across the border.  It is also understood that these fees would be directly used for additional trained personnel at the border and for technology and research to ensure that adequate and appropriate risk assessments are utilized.  Such training and resources would actually facilitate trade between the two countries in the long run.
The NPC is also concerned about the potential movement of pests and diseases via travelers and shoppers entering the U.S. through land ports at the Canadian and Mexican borders.  It is assumed by the Agency that travelers on foot or by auto would more likely consume any goods
within a short distance from the border.  The NPC disagrees with this assumption.  The majority of potato production occurs in states that border Canada.  Therefore, even produce, which remains within a short distance from the Canadian border, could pose a serious risk in spreading pests and diseases.  We would urge that the USDA, Homeland Security work with Canada and Mexico to devote additional resources and effective systems that assure that pedestrian and auto traffic do not become a further source of pests and diseases impacting our fruit, vegetable and, particularly, our potato growers. However, moving ahead, with the implementation of this interim rule dealing with commercial traffic as well as airport cargo and passengers along the Canadian border, does represent a significant step in the right direction.


TK: The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas also said in 2006 that Canada’s exemption from inspection fees should end. For a view toward “fairness” toward other U.S. trading partners, the exemption should end. And if the unified regulatory agenda is to be believed, it will end this year.


 On the other hand, annexng Canada seems like a good idea too. In 2002, this polll made headlines:

Should Canada become the 51st American state? Four out of 10 Americans answered "sure" in a recent poll conducted by Leger Marketing of Montreal.