Inside View: November 2011

November 02, 2011
Written by Gary Jones
All growers of hardy perennials will by now have heard of “new” pests such as Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) and the Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis). In fact, a quick look at the list of Pests Regulated by Canada (Plant Health Regulations, 29 2(a)) reveals about 230 or so such organisms (give or take a few duplications).

So, what do we do when faced with so many potential foreign health threats to our plants? Simple – we set up systems to try to stop their entry. Hence the above “regulations.”

Good so far.

Now, a new U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) regulation known as “NAPPRA” (Plants for Planting Not Authorized for Importations Pending Pest Risk Analysis) has significant potential for making exporting plant material to the U.S. much more difficult. NAPPRA’s aim is to reduce the number of invasive pests coming into North America. USDA-APHIS will publish lists of plants it considers are quarantine pests or are hosts of quarantine pests. The U.S. proposes to prohibit the entry of plants on its NAPPRA list, until risk assessments have been completed.

Fair enough.

WHAT IS USDA DEFINITION OF ‘GROWN IN CANADA?’
But herein lies a problem. Although the regulations have been written, the definitions within those regulations have not. For instance, while practically everything grown in the U.S. and Canada is exempt, there is currently no USDA definition of “grown in Canada.” According to H.T.A. Landscape Ontario, “plants can never be from Canada if they were originally grown in a country where they would be prohibited entry into the U.S.”

Other questions still need to be answered to fully understand the impact that these regulations may have on Canadian growers.

So, with the clock ticking, what’s the answer before the regulations become effective?

The simple solution would be to get answers to all these questions before the regulations are implemented (in less than 12 months’ time). That depends on lots of discussion and negotiation, but it is possible. Of course, we might not get the answers we want to hear.

Another option is not to send plant material to the U.S., but obviously that’s not a reasonable route for any business with significant exports. According to the USDA, Canadian nursery products account for 50 per cent of all U.S. nursery imports, so there is clearly lots at stake and we’re not just going to stop sending plants to our American industry partners.

We could also produce fewer of the plants on the NAPPRA list. But we’re talking about 148 taxa altogether, so this, too, is unlikely.

We could, of course, just close the Canadian border to U.S. imports, but that is simply just unimaginable behaviour toward our largest trading partner.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS FOR CANADIAN GROWERS?
CFIA is considering several options. The most simple is to harmonize Canada’s NAPPRA regulations with those of the U.S. The U.S. also needs to provide a definition of from when determining country of origin. The term needs to be defined to enable producers to provide appropriate traceability documentation, while understanding that many species have resided in Canada for a significant period of time. We must wish Bruce McTavish and his colleagues at the North American Plant Protection Organisation (NAPPO) all the best in upcoming negotiations.

This all begs the question about our (fill in your geographical region to suit – Canada, provincial, municipal) self-security with respect to ornamentals. Just as the “100-mile Diet” has affected people’s purchasing of food and drink, are we likely to see similar issues with respect to the perennials and flowers we enjoy growing?

Perhaps.

For example, B.C. already has a thriving native plant species industry. Maybe NAPPRA is another spur towards another sector of horticulture thinking about “security” in a different light. What if – just if – 50 per cent of your market closed overnight? How would you fare? Just how secure are you when it comes to your customer base?

There are no easy answers, and most likely NAPPRA is not going to close the border to our plants so dramatically. But in the immediate term, there are lots of unanswered questions, and “plant security” is perhaps something we all need to think about.



Gary Jones is Chair of Production Horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, British Columbia. He sits on several industry committees and would welcome comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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