The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed a rule to amend regulations for peppers being imported into the continental U.S. from the Republic of Korea. The two main regulations these agencies were looking to change is the size of mesh screens over openings and using colored sticky traps for pest control.
Regulations were put into place to prohibit or restrict the import of fruit and vegetables from specific parts of the world with the intention to control the propagation of plant pests in the U.S. Specifically, regulations found in § 319.56-42 control the import of peppers from the Republic of Korea to the continental U.S. Regulations state that peppers must be grown in insect-proof greenhouses. These greenhouses need to be approved by and registered with the Korean National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) and they must have double self-closing doors. Furthermore, any openings in the facility other than doors are required to be covered with a 0.6mm mesh screening to control pests. Throughout the growing season, these greenhouses are subjected to monthly inspections by the NPQS and pepper consignments need to follow strict post harvest and packinghouse procedures to ensure that the product is safe for distribution in the U.S.
However, NPQS requested that these regulations be amended to increase the size of the screenings from 0.6mm to 1.6mm because, under the current regulation, airflow is being restricted which can cause an issue with increased heat, humidity and fungal activity which will ultimately impact the quality of the peppers. APHIS prepared a commodity import evaluation document (CIED) to investigate and evaluate the request from NPQS. The CIED reviewed documents for other APHIS approved fruits and vegetables grown in facilities with screens that are 1.6mm, such as, eggplants from Israel, and tomatoes from the Republic of Korea. APHIS also noted in the CIED that Republic of Korea already exports peppers grown in facilities with 1.6mm screening to countries including Australia and Peru. Based on the findings in the CIED, it was determined that the 1.6mm mesh screens were adequate pest preventative measures when used in combination with other pest control techniques, such as sticky traps.
Upon the determination that 1.6mm mesh screens were sufficient when combined with other pest control measures, APHIS proposed to change regulations to include the use of yellow and blue sticky traps in each green house. Each greenhouse would then monitor for levels of thrip activity and if activity is found to be above an actionable amount, then exports from the greenhouse will be suspended until remedial measures are taken to mitigate the hazard. If this proposed rule is accepted, then the number of sticky traps, the threshold for an actionable amount of thrip activity, and the remedial measures to be taken would be determined in an operational workplan between APHIS and NPQS.
APHIS also researched how the proposed rule would affect small entities in the U.S. They estimate that the quantity of peppers from Korea would be limited due to the dominance of neighboring foreign suppliers, such as Mexico and Canada. Therefore, it was determined that, if accepted, this proposed rule would not have a substantial economic impact on a significant number of small growers.