Large Fee Increases for Border Agricultural Inspections Proposed

Excerpt from Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report  |  Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to significantly increase many of the fees it charges, and to add two new fees, for conducting agricultural quarantine inspections at U.S. ports of entry. APHIS is also proposing to adjust the hourly rates charged when its employees perform overtime work associated with AQI activities. Comments on these proposals are due no later than June 24.

AQI Fees. AQI activities include inspections conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection of conveyances, cargo and passenger baggage entering the country as well as APHIS’ analytical and scientific work to track pests overseas, focus inspections at ports of entry and develop the import regulations that protect U.S. animal and plant health from foreign pests. APHIS states that the revenue collected from the fees for these activities, which have not seen any major adjustments in nearly a decade, have been insufficient to cover costs and compelled the use of “appropriated funds that should be available for other important homeland security functions and initiatives.”

Some fees would be lowered under APHIS’ proposal, including fees for inspections of international air passengers (from $5 to $4 per passenger) and railroad cars (from $7.75 to $2 per car), because the current fees generate more revenue than needed to cover their costs.

However, most of the fees would be increased, including fees for inspections of commercial aircraft (from $70.75 to $225 per aircraft), commercial maritime cargo vessels (from $496 to $825 per vessel), commercial trucks with a transponder (from $105 to $320 a year) and commercial trucks without a transponder (from $5.25 to $8 per crossing). APHIS is also proposing to add a $2 per passenger fee for inspecting cruise vessels and passenger baggage as well as a $375 fee for conducting and monitoring treatments to imported cargo to minimize pest risks.

APHIS notes that it considered but decided not to impose at this time fees for inspections of rail and bus passengers, pedestrians, personally owned vehicles, private aircraft and maritime vessels, and commodity import permits and pest import permits.

Overtime Fees. APHIS is proposing to increase for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018 the hourly rates charged for Sundays, holidays or other overtime work performed by its employees for any person, firm or corporation having ownership, custody or control of plants, plant products, animals, poultry, animal byproducts, germ plasm, organisms, vectors or other regulated commodities or articles subject to certain inspection, laboratory testing, certification or quarantine under USDA regulations. The fee of $51 per hour for Monday-Saturday and holidays would be raised to $74 for FYs 2014 and 2015 and $75 thereafter. The fee of $67 per hour for Sundays would be increased to $98 for FYs 2014 and 2015, $99 for FYs 2016 and 2017, and $100 thereafter.

APHIS is also proposing to increase for these fiscal years the overtime rates charged to owners or operators of aircraft for inspection or quarantine services provided by an APHIS employee at an airport outside the regularly established hours of service. The current fee of $41 per hour for Monday-Saturday and holidays would be increased to $64 for FYs 2014 through 2016 and $65 thereafter. The fee of $55 per hour for Sundays would go to $84 for FY 2014, $85 for FYs 2015 and 2016, and $86 thereafter.

APHIS is also proposing to indicate that agricultural inspections performed by CBP may be billed in accordance with CBP overtime regulations for services performed outside of regular business hours.