February 16th, 2009

By Staff
Date Posted: 9/1/2008

Canadian and U.S. governments are moving forward with consultations on the proposed removal of the exemption of the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM-15) on wood packaging material moving between the two countries.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are considering enforcing a standard for wood packaging to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer.

On July 24, the Canadian government started a 90-day comment period for interested parties to share their concerns about a cross-border ISPM-15 requirement. Anyone can share their thoughts by visiting: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/plaveg/for/cwpc/consulte.shtml

To allow sufficient time to adjust, the CFIA and APHIS are developing a strategy that involves a gradual multi-year phase-in period. Complete implementation of the ISPM No. 15 is expected by 2011.

Before the import requirement is enforced, the CFIA will address concerns raised during consultations with affected stakeholders. Industry, exporters, importers, brokers, wood packaging manufacturers and interest groups are encouraged to provide comments.

Wood packaging moving between Canada and the continental United States has been exempted from the international standard due to the similarity and contiguous natures of the forests in both countries. But a growing number of invasive species being introduced into the two countries has prompted the need to increase intercontinental prevention measures.

Requiring ISPM-15 treatment of all wood packaging material within the United States remains a viable option for the future. Federal authorities have yet to institute such a measure and instead have opted to push for the end of the U.S./Canada exemption. Domestic issues remain a concern as the emerald ash borer (EAB) continues to be discovered in new areas.

Government authorities have yet to offer any real timetable for a domestic ISPM-15 requirement.

Bruce Scholnick, president of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA), said that nothing is likely to happen now until after the upcoming presidential election. Of course, there is a chance that a new administration may not take up the issue. But Bruce said he believes there is enough support within the appropriate agencies by the bureaucrats that it could survive no matter who gets elected.

Melissa O'Dell, media spokesperson for the U.S. Animal Plant Health & Inspection Service (APHIS), said, "A domestic requirement remains a priority for us, and we understand the importance of it."

Melissa refused to provide a specific time frame for a domestic treatment requirement. But she said that the existence of domestic quarantines in some areas pointed to the need for further action within our borders.

Some people within local governments and the wood industry oppose efforts to institute domestic treatment requirements for solid wood packaging. There are a number of concerns including the cost, the effectiveness of any mandated standard and the ability to inspect thousands of locations. APHIS does not have enough inspectors to handle the burden caused by a domestic treatment requirement. Inspections would likely fall to local authorities or even independent organizations. This could lead authorities to utilize third party services as is currently done for the export certification program. Bruce said another option would be for state transportation departments to look for inspection marks when trucks are stopped at weigh scales.

The NWPCA continues to lead the effort for domestic requirements. Bruce pointed to the success of the international treatment program to show that it can work.

Bruce said, "If given a defined set of rules, the pallet industry will comply." He is concerned about attempts by state and local agencies to interpret proposed standards in different ways.

Another major concern for the NWPCA is the negative exposure that wooden pallets has received because of the spread of pests, such as the emerald ash borer (EAB), when firewood may be the primary culprit.

This summer government officials have discovered EAB infestations in Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Also, Canadian officials recently found the EAB in Quebec. The EAB sighting in Missouri is the farthest south and west of any other known EAB infestation. The pest was also discovered earlier in the summer in Fairfax County, Va. by a state forestry official.

Ash trees make up approximately 3% of forests and 14% of urban trees in Missouri. Since no ash trees in North America are known to be resistant to the pest, infestations are devastating to these tree species.

The EAB was discovered in Missouri in a trap set as part of a nationwide early detection program. EAB traps are purple, prism-shaped devices with sticky outer surfaces. The borers are attracted by the color and by chemical scents that mimic a stressed ash tree. To date, the EAB has not shown up on any other traps throughout the state. But that doesn't mean the pest has been contained. It is usually very difficult to detect. Ash trees typically do not show any obvious signs of infestation until one year or longer after the insect has attacked the tree and moved on.

"The discovery of this highly destructive pest at a campground is a strong indication that it probably arrived in firewood," said Missouri Conservation Department Forest Entomologist Rob Lawrence.

Virginia officials believe the reported infestations appear to have begun years ago, indicating that these wood-boring insects, which have a one-year life cycle, may have spread to many other areas of the region. An active search for signs of EAB infestation is under way in adjacent counties.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) recently issued a quarantine on movement of any ash product such as trees or lumber and all hardwood firewood for numerous localities in Northern Virginia. The scope of the quarantine will be expanded if the beetle is discovered in other places. The VDACS quarantine mirrors a federal quarantine implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture to prevent the spread of this pest from Virginia to other non-infested states.

According to the VDACS, this is the second finding of EAB in Virginia. The first, which occurred in Fairfax County in 2003, was successfully eradicated.

The most recent EAB discovery in the country took place in the Osaukee County area of Wisconsin. The EAB was positively identified in the southeast region of the state, which is not a surprise since the beetle has ravaged nearby Michigan.

"We expected to find EAB in Wisconsin sooner or later, but this is still disappointing," said Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen. "Our focus now is to find out exactly what we're up against."

Officials announcing the find emphasized that the first steps in responding to the infestation will be to quarantine movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock, timber or any other article that could spread EAB out of the infested area.





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