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How to Import Plants into the United States

How to Import Plants into the United States

How to Import Plants into the United States

When importing plants to the U.S., you'll need to comply with USDA requirements enforced through the Animal and Plant Health Inspecton Service (APHIS). This includes obtaining an import permit from the USDA and filing all necessary import paperwork. Endangered plants are also subject to additional regulations through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

At USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, we want to be able to help you with whatever questions you may have regarding importation. We’ll allow you to book a customs consulting session while offering a customs bond so that your shipment is covered financially. 

If you’ve ever considered importing plants to the USA, then you’ve probably noticed that it’s not the simplest process you’ll ever take part in. Whether you’re doing so for personal reasons or for business ones, a little extra work needs to go into it than you might have initially thought. There are many different rules and regulations, and, for someone completely out of this circle, it can be somewhat awkward to deal with. 

When importing plants to the U.S., you'll need to comply with USDA requirements enforced through the Animal and Plant Health Inspecton Service (APHIS). This includes obtaining an import permit from the USDA and filing all necessary import paperwork. Endangered plants are also subject to additional regulations through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

At USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, we want to be able to help you with whatever questions you may have regarding importation. We’ll allow you to book a customs consulting session while offering a customs bond so that your shipment is covered financially. 

Plant Import Requirements 

As previously mentioned, different requirements exist for different kinds of plants and the industries with which they operate under. Let us now run through some of the typical import requirements: 

Endangered Plant Species (CITES):

- If you are looking to import or export CITES or ESA plants and plant products, then USDA regulation 7 CFR 355 requires you to possess a valid USDA Protected Plant Permit. CITES-listed plants are required to enter the US through a designated port. 

- The fee for the Protected Plant Permit is $70 and should be paid via check or money order made payable to Plant Protection and Quarantine. 

Plants And Products Covered By The Lacey Act:

- The Lacey Act combats trafficking in illegal wildlife and plants. It is unlawful to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration.

- The official APHIS website will be able to provide you with a plethora of information regarding the requirements and regulations of plants and products covered by the Lacey Act.

How To Get A USDA Plant Import Permit

Permits are required in order to import plants to USA. Plant and plant product permits include plants for planting such as nursery stock, fruits and vegetables, timber, cut flowers, and small lots of seed. There are many different kinds of permits, and the convoluted set may confuse some onlookers. Here are the currently available permit applications: 

-      PPQ 585: An application for a permit to import timber or timber products. 

-      PPQ 587: An application for a permit to import plants or plant products, including:

  • Plants for planting (including seeds)

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Rice and rice-related plants

  • Indian corn or maize, broomcorn, and related plants

  • Miscellaneous products associated with Khapra Beetle

  • Sugarcane products and by-products

  • Foreign cotton and covers

  • Cut flowers

-      PPQ 546: An application for propagative plants that require post entry quarantine

-      PPQ 588: Controlled import permits to import plants or plant products for experimental, therapeutic or developmental purposes

-      PPQ 621: An application for a protected plant permit to engage in the business of import, exporting, or re-exporting protected plants (CITES)

-      PPQ 586: An application for a permit to transit plant products, plant pests, and soil through the US.

Will My Plants Need To Undergo A Post-Entry Quarantine?

In some cases, plants will need to be quarantined and treated accordingly. The USDA APHIS will determine the type of treatment necessary when a pest of quarantine significance is prevalent in the country. Treatments can be chemical and non-chemical. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are admissible into the United States may require quarantine treatment prior to being allowed into the country. Irradiation treatments that have been developed recently are considered viable phytosanitary options for mitigating against certain quarantine significant pests. 

The post-entry quarantine is in place to widen the range of plants and foreign sources where plants can be imported from. Through careful monitoring during quarantine, plants can be confirmed to be free of pests before entering the marke. The regulations are listed and specified in 7 CFR 319.37-23. The requirements for post-entry quarantine are located in the plants for planting manual.

You can't have healthy plants without the right type of associated soil. There are a few key differences when it comes to importing soil. Read our guide on importing soil to the U.S. for more information.

Duties And Fees When Importing Plants

There will be an array of fees that one has to pay in order to get this kind of transaction over the line. Inspection or handling fees, including customs duty, will be taken during a successful importation into the US. If you wish to learn about the kinds of fees you might have to pay during this process, then you find everything you need here on this database. 

Ultimately, the duty will vary based on where the plant is coming from and what type of plant it is. In addition to duties collected on the import, a Merchandise Process Fee is also collected. 

The responsibility of paying duties always falls on the importer of record. However, the importer of record will change depending on the Incoterms of the shipment. To learn more about Incoterms , take a look at our blog What Are Incoterms?

How Should I Ship Plants?

You’ll have many different methods of importing plants into the US – it’s just a case of picking the right method that suits the kind of item you’re bringing in. You can import via air, sea, truck, and rail. Let’s quickly go through the different options on offer:

Air: Air transport is obviously a very convenient way of shipping goods such as plants all over the world. The positives of air freighting are that you can pretty much guarantee safety and security due to the protocols and controls associated with each flight. It’s also the safest mode of transport in general, of course. You can also take into account the speed at which the goods will be delivered.

You have to think about cons such as the weight and size limits, however, as planes only allow a certain amount per party. The cost might be a little higher than you’d like, too. 

Sea: Importing goods via sea or ocean is a helpful way of working as it can work at relatively cheaper than other options. You’re also able to carry lots of times – both heavy goods and smaller ones at a high volume. It’s an eco-friendly way of operating, too.

Some cons are that it’s a pretty slow method as water travel isn’t exactly light-speed. There can be delays, too, resulting in customers choosing another supplier if they’re unsatisfied with the time taken. 

Road: When it comes to shipping domestically, you’ll know all about road courier services as you’ll have dealt with them before. Using for long-distance imports are a little different, though. The pros are that it’s a relatively low cost and that scheduled and next-day deliveries are a viable option. You can track the location, and it’s usually a secure and private process. 

Some cons are that, of course, the longer-distance imports will take quite a long time. Traffic and breakdowns can also be an issue. There is a risk of the goods being damaged over time, too. 

Rail: Importing via rail is a smooth option for an individual or group as it’s environmentally friendly and will get speedy transactions done through the likes of Mexico and Canada. It’s more expensive than, say, road courier services. You also have to deal with the fact the routes are not as flexible as you’d like, and that the final destination won’t be your final one – you’ll need further transportation. 

If you're on a tight deadline and need your products quickly, you'll need to opt for international expedited shipping. While expedited shipping comes with a hefty cost, it's a necessary evil when time is of the essence.

How Can A Customs Broker Help Me?

A customs broker’s (sometimes known as an import broker) job is to ensure the import and export of goods goes as planned. They’ll deal with the formalities and facilitate the clearance of goods through customs processes. Much like a broker in any other walk of life, they’ll represent a party and do what’s best for them. They’ll handle tasks such as paperwork, monitoring shipments, and coding goods. 

As someone looking to import plants into the USA, you’ll need to make sure everything is in order so you do not have a flawed transaction. A customs broker will be able to take the stress and strain away from you while this process is ongoing and allow you to smoothly import what you desire. They’ll work directly with you and allow you to understand what is going on during every step. Due to their experience, they will be able to oversee pretty much everything and answer any query you might have along the way.

Disclaimer: This Website contains information on compliance issues and is not a substitute for compliance advice from a qualified professional in the appropriate jurisdiction. Plants Without Borders is providing this free resource to the general public purely for informational purposes, and Plants Without Borders assumes no liability for any outcome related to the implementation of the information found in this Article.

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