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Rubio, Nelson, Colleagues Urge Agriculture Department to Restructure Fee System for Florida Ports
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) are continuing efforts to protect business at Florida ports by urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to restructure the way the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) charges importers to fumigate produce shipped into the U.S. Upon offloading any imported produce at a U.S. port, the shipment must be inspected and fumigated. The fee that an importer pays to have their produce fumigated is set by APHIS and is currently charged on a “per-enclosure basis” – meaning, an importer pays the same fee to fumigate a warehouse full of goods in the Northeast as they do to fumigate one shipping container in Florida. As a result of this “per-enclosure” fee system that USDA initiated in 2015, some imports arriving in Florida – where each container is fumigated separately – are now costing up to 15 times more than in the Northeast U.S. – where ships can offload multiple containers into a single warehouse and have them all fumigated at once.
To prevent importers from starting to shift their shipping patterns away from Florida, Rubio and Nelson sent a letter today to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging his Department to restructure APHIS’s fee system once again, but this time in a way that puts Florida’s ports back on a level playing field with others elsewhere in the U.S.
“USDA also has a responsibility to ensure AQI treatment monitoring is equitable and does not advantage some U.S. ports at the expense of others,” the lawmakers wrote. “For example, 300 pallets treated simultaneously in a Philadelphia warehouse would incur one AQI charge of $142, while 300 pallets treated simultaneously in 15 shipping containers in Florida would cost $2,130.”
“Both methods would use the same amount of fumigation product and take the same amount of fumigation time, yet the resulting fees for ports in Florida would be 15 times higher than those paid by ports in the Northeast,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that USDA continue to review the current method of applying AQI treatment monitoring fees and identify a more equitable approach.”
In addition to Rubio and Nelson, the letter was signed by Representatives Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Brian Mast (R-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Charlie Crist (D-FL).
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Perdue:
We write to request your assistance in rectifying a growing problem with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) treatment monitoring fee. Currently, these fees disproportionately affect ports in our state because they are assessed on a per-treatment basis, regardless of the volume of goods treated.
For example, 300 pallets treated simultaneously in a Philadelphia warehouse would incur one AQI charge of $142, while 300 pallets treated simultaneously in 15 shipping containers in Florida would cost $2,130. Both methods would use the same amount of fumigation product and take the same amount of fumigation time, yet the resulting fees for ports in Florida would be 15 times higher than those paid by ports in the Northeast.
We recognize the critical importance of APHIS inspections to protecting U.S. agriculture, but USDA also has a responsibility to ensure AQI treatment monitoring is equitable and does not advantage some U.S. ports at the expense of others. To that end, we would like to draw your attention to the following report language included in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 Agriculture Appropriations bill:
“The Committee notes that assessing AQI treatment monitoring fees on a per-enclosure basis imposes disproportionate impacts on industry and user groups at certain key ports of entry, including ports along the southeast United States. USDA is encouraged to continue conducting a study that specifically outlines the actual costs of treatments, examines the disproportionate impact the fee has on airports and seaports in different regions of the U.S., and evaluates alternative and equitable funding mechanisms. Such report should also incorporate due consideration of the recommendations of the Treatment Fee Working Group’s September 27, 2016 “Report to APHIS”. USDA shall brief the Committee on the status of such study and other efforts to ensure equitable collection of revenues for vital AQI treatment monitoring efforts.”
We ask that USDA continue to review the current method of applying AQI treatment monitoring fees and identify a more equitable approach. We consider this a time-sensitive issue because the treatment monitoring fees are scheduled to increase on January 1, 2019 to $190 per enclosure, and will increase to $237 per enclosure in 2020. We look forward to your assistance in addressing this issue.