The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has prepared and is accepting comments on a draft environmental assessment (EA) for importing plants in approved growing media into the United States. The EA considers the potential environmental effects of having a standardized set of pest risk mitigations for routine market requests to import plants in approved growing media. This approach would eliminate the need for APHIS to prepare a unique EA for each request, making the process of reviewing import requests more efficient.
For the importation of plants in growing media, APHIS typically requires a systems approach, which includes safeguarding measures across the production continuum that growers, packers, and shippers can put in place to minimize the risk of introducing plant pests into the United States. These systems approaches are very similar for most import requests. We have determined that a single programmatic EA would reduce the need for repetitive National Environmental Policy Act documentation if the routine import request does not identify new areas of consideration. This would streamline approvals for market requests to import plants in growing media while still protecting against the introduction of plant pests. Note that this EA does not change requirements under the Endangered Species Act, and APHIS will continue to work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to ensure imported plants in growing media are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
APHIS invites the public to review and comment on the draft EA by May 10, 2019. The EA may be viewed in today’s Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/10/2019-07071/environmental-assessments-availability-etc-importation-of-plants-in-approved-growing-media-into-the. Members of the public will be able to submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2018-0101.