On October 1st, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) kicked off an offshore greenhouse certification pilot program at the Miami and Atlanta plant inspection stations. This pilot will run for six months and will help APHIS and the U.S. nursery industry determine whether greenhouse certification can effectively mitigate pest and disease risks associated with plant cuttings produced in offshore facilities. APHIS and the nursery industry have been working together to develop and implement this pilot program for over a year.
On June 26, 2017, APHIS sought stakeholder feedback on the draft framework for the pilot program. They received feedback from five stakeholders within the 30-day comment period. In response, they clarified language in the framework regarding irrigation requirements, screen/physical barrier maintenance, and record keeping and retention. They also instructed certified inspectors to record information on pathogen testing procedures and processes at each pilot facility during inspection visits per stakeholder suggestions.
APHIS would like to clarify that material originating from these facilities is low risk and has been entering the United States in high volumes for many years. Inspection frequency at the plant inspection stations will not change under this pilot; all shipments will be inspected according to standard protocols. APHIS will gather data during the six month pilot, including any pest interceptions on cuttings from participating facilities. These facilities do not receive any advantage from participating in the pilot, and, if the pilot is successful, any interested facility may apply to join a greenhouse certification program in future years.