US agriculture plan comes at a price for all cross-border traffic

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Trucking Alliance is concerned that border delays will result when a recently published interim rule from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) comes into force on Nov. 24.

It was issued in response to what APHIS terms an emergency threat to the US from the importation of plant pests and animal diseases, and bioterrorism fears.

According to APHIS, “Product of Canada” labels are being placed on third country products including Asian fruits and vegetables, Spanish oranges and Dutch apples. Offshore flowers have also been mixed with Canadian domestic varieties, notes the agency.

The new rule, which would bring an end to the exemption Canada has historically enjoyed from agricultural quarantine inspections of fruits and vegetables from Canada, along with associated user fees, appears to have caught many in the government and private sector on both sides of the border off-guard.

All commercial trucks entering the US from Canada will be required to pay a fee of $5.25 per crossing, or purchase an annual decal at a cost of $105 – a measure that will generate almost $15 million in annual fees – whether they are hauling agricultural products or not.

The news of the new cost measure has not been well received by the CTA.

“CTA strenuously objects to the plan to have the trucking industry pick up the tab for new inspectors and more inspections. Why are service providers such as trucking companies paying for the inspection of someone else’s goods?” stated David Bradley, CEO of the trucking alliance. “And why, if APHIS has concerns over plant pests and animal diseases, is the fee being applied to carriers of auto parts, bulk chemicals and computer equipment? It’s pretty obvious that charging the truck is expedient for government, but that does not make it right.”

Bradley also sees the potential for delays at the border. Almost 20,000 trucks enter the US from Canada every day, according to CTA. The USDA estimates that only 5% to 20% of those trucks carry agricultural products.

“Nobody would dispute the right – indeed, the duty – of APHIS to take steps to protect US agriculture from pests or diseases introduced by products grown in other countries,” he said. “However, there are many practical issues associated with the fee collection that could cause havoc at the land border if not addressed properly. Chief among them is the integration of the new fee with an existing charge on trucks levied by CBP.

“How are US authorities planning to get these decals on to the windshields of trucks in a little over two months? What is the process? Because if they don’t, there will be thousands of truck drivers at the border on November 24th, fumbling for cash and waiting for government officials to count out change. One can only imagine the frustration and anger that will ensue on both sides.”

CTA is calling on the Canadian federal government to forcefully intervene with the US in support of the entire Canadian transportation industry.

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