Nursery official objects to order, says it won't stop spread of disease
By MITCH LIES
The USDA as of March 1 will require nurseries in certain counties of Oregon, Washington and California to provide advance notice to receiving states when shipping some sudden oak death host material.
The federal order, though not unexpected, was disappointing to nursery officials, who had hoped the USDA would abandon plans to adopt the pre-notification order.
Federal officials initially sought to institute the regulation last spring. Officials delayed implementing the order to consider objections raised by nursery associations in the three states.
The order, issued Jan. 28, requires nurseries in 40 West Coast counties to notify state departments of agriculture in receiving states when shipping camellia, kalmia, pieris, rhododendron (including azalea) and viburnum.
Shipments between the three states are not covered in the order.
In Oregon, the order affects nurseries in the following counties: Clackamas, Columbia, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill.
In Washington, nurseries in Clark, Cowlitz, King, Kitsap, Lewis, Pacific, Snohomish and Thurston counties are affected by the order.
In California the order affects nurseries in 24 counties, stretching from San Diego County in the south to Shasta in the north. The order includes counties quarantined and regulated for P. ramorum, the fungal pathogen that causes sudden oak death.
Gary McAninch, nursery and Christmas tree program manager for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said East Coast states asked USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to institute the order under the premise it would allow them to better focus inspection resources.
When asked if he thought the order would scale back the spread of sudden oak death, McAninch said: "It will allow them to plan their inspection processes and put them in high priority areas, but I don't expect they are going to find a lot of positive plants moving.
"I think we do a good job with certification here," McAninch said.
Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director Jeff Stone roundly objected to the order, saying it is costly and burdensome to nurseries and "will do nothing to stop the spread" of the disease.
Also, Stone said the order puts a blemish on West Coast nursery stock and could be used as a trade barrier.
"This order should not be construed that Oregon, Washington and California are shipping infected plants," Stone said. He said that 99.4 percent of Oregon shipments are disease-free.
"I don't think it is intended to be used as an artificial trade barrier," Stone said. "We just need to make sure it is not twisted and turned into that."
Stone said OAN has been in contact with the American Nursery and Landscape Association and the California and Washington nursery associations to learn how best to comply with the order.
"We're trying to clarify all those items so we can make sure everybody has the ability to meet the USDA standards," Stone said.
APHIS has not provided a form for producers to submit to state departments of agriculture in receiving states. APHIS also apparently has not specified how much in advance notification should occur, other than to say the notification should occur in a timely fashion.
Stone suggested that producers notify a state when a shipment leaves a nursery.
Commodities shipped without advance notice can be held, returned to their point of origin or destroyed at the expense of the owner, according to the order.
The order does not differentiate between nurseries with prior findings of sudden oak death, and those that have never had sudden oak death.
A federal program already in place requires nurseries in the three West Coast states be tested and certified as sudden-oak-death free before they can ship host material out of state.
Of 650 nurseries surveyed for sudden oak death in Oregon last year, nine tested positive, and two shipped infected material out of state.
In both cases, nurseries that received the material were notified. Inspectors in the receiving states found "one or two" infected plants, McAninch said.
USDA plans to revisit the new federal order in September.