APHIS Wants Comments on Proposed Domestic Wood Packaging Rules

Sept. 3, 2009
The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is soliciting industry comments regarding its proposed rulemaking for unprocessed wood packaging material used in domestic commerce. Comments are due Oct. 26.

In a previous story, MHM reported on public meetings being held by the USDA and cited an Aug. 17 notice in the Federal Register announcing the meetings.

More recently, on Aug. 27, APHIS released a notice of proposed rulemaking and requested public comments about regulatory options for wood packaging materials used in domestic commerce. APHIS is seeking ways to decrease the artificial spread of plant pests, such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. APHIS also announced it will prepare an environmental impact statement.

Currently, APHIS requires wood packaging materials used to import material into the U.S. to be treated with heat or fumigation with methyl bromide and marked with specific symbols used by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The IPPC developed the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) 15, which regulates the movement of wood packaging materials in international commerce.

APHIS is now considering options for regulating the movement of wood packaging material within the U.S. Among other alternatives, APHIS is considering extending the ISPM 15 international requirements to wood packaging material used in domestic commerce.

The USDA currently authorizes the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association to execute and monitor the U.S. fumigation program, while the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) executes and monitors the U.S. heat-treatment program.

APHIS, ALSC and the wood packaging industry work together on a program requiring heat-treated wood packaging material to be marked with the ISPM 15 symbol, which is often called a “bug stamp.” The mark signifies compliance with the ISPM 15 standard.

Along with extending the international standards, another option proposed by APHIS in its more recent notice is pallet pooling. “The pooled pallets are constructed from a higher grade of wood than traditional pallets, with strict specifications pertaining to such factors as species of tree and source location,” said APHIS. “Combining IPPC treatments with pallet pooling may provide sufficient mitigation of the pest risk associated with wood packaging material moving domestically in the United States.”

Download the notice in the Aug. 27 edition of the Federal Register. The statement includes complete instructions for submitting comments.

Comments can also be submitted online.