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USDA revises sudden oak death regulations

By MITCH LIES

For the Capital Press

The USDA has revised its rules on sudden oak death to level the playing field for the nursery industry.

The USDA is revising its sudden oak death quarantine regulations for shipment of nursery stock in a way that reduces the burden on nurseries that pose a minimal risk and focuses resources on high-risk nurseries.

“This is a big win for the Oregon nursery industry because it puts everybody on a level playing field and reaffirms the fact that this state has great quality plants and ships clean plants,” said Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries.

“It focuses our attention on the few folks that have a problem,” he said.

The revisions make permanent several facets of an interim order that has been in place for three years; expands the order to nurseries in states other than Oregon, California and Washington; and provides an “off-ramp” for nurseries that have in the past been found to move infected plant material.

“You can get off the list,” Stone said. “Once upon a time, if you were ever on the list, you never got off, even if you changed your production methods.”

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service order, which kicks in March 31, stipulates that nurseries where sudden oak death, or P. ramorum, has been detected must be inspected, sampled and certified before they can ship P. ramorum host material. Nurseries that have tested positive for P. ramorum in the three years prior to the order also must agree to test plant material and institute mitigation measures at all critical control points identified by APHIS.

If samples test negative for three years from March 31, the nursery is relieved of all federal regulatory requirements for interstate shipment of P. ramorum host materials, according to the announcement.

Nurseries that have not tested positive for P. ramorum since March 31, 2011, are not subject to the requirements and are no longer required to be inspected, sampled and certified to ship regulated host plants interstate, according to the announcement.

APHIS stated in its announcement that the revisions “will allow both APHIS and state regulatory agencies to focus their resources on high-risk nurseries where P. ramorum has been detected, while reducing the burden on nurseries that post minimal risk for moving the pathogen through shipments of regulated, restricted, or associated articles.”

Sudden oak death was first found in Oregon in the forests of Curry County in 2001. Curry County remains the only county in Oregon where the disease is present in the wild. In parts of California, the disease is also present in the wild.

The disease was first found in an Oregon nursery in 2003, and APHIS began regulating interstate movement of Oregon nursery stock in 2005.

The APHIS initiated a pre-notification rule in 2011 that required nurseries in counties where sudden oak death had been found to pre-notify states when shipping sudden oak death host material. The order resulted in state departments of agriculture getting swamped in paperwork, Stone said, and the USDA later relaxed the requirement under an interim rule.

“(State departments of agriculture) were getting faxes and emails to such a degree that they were buried in paperwork and their email systems crashed,” Stone said. “They didn’t realize how many trucks leave the state of Oregon.”

Stone said the prenotification requirement also put a stigma on nursery shipments from the West Coast.

“One of the reasons our folks are relieved is we had states that wanted our market share and would use this federal order as a way to say, ‘Look, be careful about plants coming from these three states,’” Stone said.

“What we were saying is that is the wrong thing to try to do. What we want to try to do is solve the problem of shipping infected plants and getting nurseries clean,” Stone said. “And the fact is 99 percent of Oregon nurseries do it the right way.

“So let’s reward people for doing the right thing, help folks who are having a problem, and have a regulatory environment that is fair,” Stone said.

SOD was found on 10 Oregon nurseries in 2013, down from 12 in 2012.



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