Florida Delegation to USDA: Change APHIS Fees at Florida Ports
Insisting they want to help ports across the state, Florida’s two U.S. senators and several of the state’s delegation in the U.S. House are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to change how the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) charges importers to fumigate produce imported into the U.S.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue on the matter. Joining the letter were Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Dennis Ross and Democrat U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
Rubio’s office made the case for why they sent the letter, insisting the policy will "prevent importers from starting to shift their shipping patterns away from Florida” unless changed.
“Upon offloading any imported produce at a U.S. port, the shipment must be inspected and fumigated,” Rubio’s office noted. “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.”
“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 added. “We ask that USDA continue to review the current method of applying AQI treatment monitoring fees and identify a more equitable approach.