Background

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is accepting comments through March 20 on a proposed rule that would ease restrictions on the importation of certain types of plant pests, establish criteria for the movement and environmental release of biological control organisms, and revise the regulations regarding the movement of soil.

With respect to the regulation of plant pests, the proposed rule would (1) clarify the risk-based criteria APHIS uses to determine if an organism is a plant pest and to evaluate and issue permits, (2) revise the definition of a plant pest to include organisms of unknown risk if those organisms are similar to known plant pests, (3) allow the use of general web-based permits for the importation and interstate movement into the continental U.S. of certain low-risk pests, and (4) put in place a notice-based process to establish and maintain a list of pests exempted from standard permit requirements.

With respect to the regulation of biological control organisms, the proposed rule would (1) establish criteria regarding the movement and release of certain biological control agents in the continental U.S. and (2) establish exemptions for certain biological control organisms similar to what is being proposed for widely prevalent, low-risk plant pests. 

Finally, the rule would more appropriately reflect the risk from soil that accompanies a plant pest by including soil as an associated article, updating the definition of soil, and clarifying what is not considered soil.

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