[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 146 (Wednesday, July 30, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 44117-44120]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17843]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

7 CFR Part 319

[Docket No. APHIS-2013-0016]
RIN 0579-AD81


Importation of Fresh Blueberries From Morocco Into the 
Continental United States

AGENCY: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We are amending the regulations concerning the importation of 
fruits and vegetables to allow the importation of fresh blueberries 
from Morocco into the continental United States. As a condition of 
entry, the blueberries must be produced under a systems approach 
employing a combination of mitigation measures for two quarantine 
pests, Ceratitis capitata and Monilinia fructigena, and must be 
inspected prior to exportation from Morocco and found free of these 
pests. The blueberries may be imported in commercial consignments only 
and must be treated with one of two approved postharvest treatments to 
mitigate C. capitata. The blueberries will have to be accompanied by a 
phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration stating that 
the conditions for importation have been met. This action will allow 
the importation of blueberries from Morocco while continuing to protect 
against the introduction of plant pests into the United States.

DATES: Effective Date: August 29, 2014.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Dorothy Wayson, Senior Regulatory 
Policy Specialist, PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 39, Riverdale, MD 
20737-1231; (301) 851-2036.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The regulations in ``Subpart-Fruits and Vegetables'' (7 CFR 319.56-
1

[[Page 44118]]

through 319.56-68, referred to below as the regulations) prohibit or 
restrict the importation of fruits and vegetables into the United 
States from certain parts of the world to prevent the introduction and 
dissemination of plant pests that are new to or not widely distributed 
within the United States.
    On December 31, 2013, we published in the Federal Register (78 FR 
79634-79636, Docket No. APHIS-2013-0016) a proposal \1\ to amend the 
regulations to allow the importation of fresh blueberries from Morocco 
into the continental United States. We prepared a pest risk assessment 
(PRA), titled ``Importation of Fresh Fruit of Highbush Blueberry 
(Vaccinium corymbosum Linnaeus) and its hybrid varieties Southern 
Highbush Blueberry [V. corymbosum x angustifolium (V. x atlanticum) and 
V. corymbosum x virgatum] into the Continental United States from 
Morocco'' (March 2012). The PRA evaluated the risks associated with the 
importation of blueberries into the continental United States from 
Morocco. Based on the information contained in the PRA, we have 
determined that measures beyond standard port-of-entry inspection are 
required to mitigate the risks posed by these quarantine pests. To 
recommend specific measures to mitigate those risks, we prepared a risk 
management document (RMD).
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    \1\ To view the proposed rule, PRA, RMD, and the comments we 
received, go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-
2013-0016.
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    Based on the RMD, we proposed to require the blueberries to be 
produced under a systems approach employing a combination of mitigation 
measures for two quarantine pests, Ceratitis capitata and Monilinia 
fructigena, and inspected prior to exportation from Morocco and found 
free of those pests. We proposed to require the blueberries to be 
imported in commercial consignments only and to be treated with one of 
two approved postharvest treatments to mitigate the risk of C. 
capitata. We also proposed to require the blueberries to be accompanied 
by a phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration stating 
that the conditions for importation have been met.
    We solicited comments concerning the proposed rule for 60 days 
ending March 3, 2014. We received six comments by that date, all from 
private citizens. The comments are discussed below.

General Comments on Proposed Rule

    One commenter stated that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection 
Service (APHIS) should prohibit the importation of blueberries from 
other countries into the United States. Another commenter agreed, 
stating that the distance between Morocco and the United States is 
great, and therefore, blueberries would need to be picked prematurely, 
which would negatively affect the quality of the fruit.
    Such prohibitions would be beyond the scope of APHIS' statutory 
authority under the Plant Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 7701 et seq., 
referred to below as the PPA). Under the PPA, APHIS will prohibit the 
importation of a fruit or vegetable into the United States only if we 
determine that the prohibition is necessary in order to prevent the 
introduction or dissemination of a plant pest or noxious weed within 
the United States.
    Additionally, as a signatory to the World Trade Organization 
Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the United States has 
agreed that any prohibitions it places on the importation of fruits and 
vegetables will be based on scientific evidence, and will not be 
maintained without sufficient scientific evidence. The blanket 
prohibitions requested by the commenters would not be in keeping with 
this agreement.
    A few commenters expressed concern that the importation of 
blueberries from Morocco poses a high risk of introducing quarantine 
pests into the United States.
    For the reasons explained in the proposed rule, the RMD, and this 
final rule, we are confident that the systems approach and other 
requirements of this final rule will adequately mitigate the risks 
associated with the importation of blueberries from Morocco.

Comment Regarding Inspections for M. fructigena

    We proposed to include in the regulations that blueberries would 
have to be inspected in the fields for signs of M. fructigena 
infestation 30 days prior to harvest. This inspection will have to be 
conducted by the national plant protection organization (NPPO) of 
Morocco. If M. fructigena is detected during the inspection, APHIS 
would prohibit the importation of blueberries from Morocco into the 
continental United States from that place of production for the 
remainder of the growing season. We also proposed that the exportation 
of blueberries from the rejected place of production may resume in the 
next growing season if APHIS and the NPPO of Morocco agree that 
appropriate remedial actions have been taken. If M. fructigena is not 
detected during the field inspections, the NPPO of Morocco must certify 
that the consignment of blueberries has been inspected again prior to 
exportation and found free of the fungus.
    One commenter stated that inspecting a crop 30 days prior to 
harvest may not ensure that the crop is free from M. fructigena.
    We note that in addition to field inspections, which have been 
shown to be effective, the blueberries are inspected for signs of M. 
fructigena prior to exportation from Morocco and are re-inspected at 
the port of entry by U.S. officials. These mitigation options have been 
used successfully to mitigate the risk of M. fructigena on fruit 
imported from other countries.

Comment Regarding Treatments for C. capitata

    To mitigate the risks associated with C. capitata on blueberries 
from Morocco, we proposed that each consignment of blueberries be 
treated in accordance with 7 CFR part 305 for C. capitata. Within part 
305, Sec.  305.2 provides that approved treatment schedules are set out 
in the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) Treatment Manual. As the 
RMD discusses, there are two approved treatments to reduce the risk of 
C. capitata: Fumigation with methyl bromide (treatment schedule T101-i-
1-1) and cold treatment (treatment schedule T107-a).
    One commenter stated that the use of methyl bromide to treat the 
blueberries for C. capitata would not eliminate the pest from the fruit 
and would contaminate the fruit, making it unsafe for human 
consumption.
    Fumigation with methyl bromide is an established and proven 
treatment for blueberries and other fruits and vegetables that is 
routinely employed to successfully mitigate the risk of C. capitata and 
other pests. Methyl bromide is approved for use on articles for human 
consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency sets tolerances, or 
maximum residue limits, for pesticides used on products for human 
consumption, and the Food and Drug Administration tests imported fruit 
and vegetables for compliance with those residue limits.

Comment Regarding the Economic Impacts on Small Businesses

    A commenter recommended changes to the proposal to address the 
economic impacts on small business entities relative to the importation 
of blueberries from Morocco. Specifically, he suggested that we 
restrict the volume of blueberries imported from Morocco each year and 
guarantee the sales price

[[Page 44119]]

of blueberries from Morocco to be no lower than blueberries produced in 
the United States.
    APHIS does not have the authority to set market price on 
commodities in the United States, nor can we place quotas or other 
limitations on the volume of fruits and vegetables imported into the 
United States.

Miscellaneous Changes

    In the preamble to the proposed rule, we included the requirement 
that ``30 days prior to harvest, blueberries be inspected in the field 
by the NPPO of Morocco for signs of M. fructigena infestation.'' 
However, we did not include in the proposed regulations that the NPPO 
of Morocco would be required to conduct this inspection. For this 
reason, we are amending paragraph (c) of Sec.  319.56-69 to include 
this information.
    In addition, we stated in proposed paragraph (c) that ``the 
exportation of blueberries from the rejected place of production may 
resume in the next growing season if an investigation is conducted and 
APHIS and the NPPO of Morocco agree that appropriate remedial actions 
have been taken.'' In reviewing this statement, we realized that, as 
worded, it is not clear what entity is responsible for conducting the 
investigation. While such an investigation must be conducted by the 
NPPO of Morocco, or by APHIS, or in combination, the point we wished to 
emphasize was that no exports of blueberries can resume from such 
places of production until APHIS and the NPPO of Morocco agree that 
appropriate remedial actions have been taken. For this reason, we are 
amending this statement in paragraph (c) to reflect our intended 
emphasis.
    Therefore, for the reasons given in the proposed rule and in this 
document, we are adopting the proposed rule as a final rule, with the 
changes discussed in this document.

    Note:  In our December 2013 proposed rule, we proposed to add 
the conditions governing the importation of blueberries from Morocco 
as Sec.  319.56-63. In this final rule, those conditions are added 
as Sec.  319.56-69.

Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for the 
purposes of Executive Order 12866 and, therefore, has not been reviewed 
by the Office of Management and Budget.
    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, we have analyzed 
the potential economic effects of this action on small entities. The 
analysis is summarized below. Copies of the full analysis are available 
on the Regulations.gov Web site (see footnote 1 in this document for a 
link to Regulations.gov) or by contacting the person listed under FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.
    The analysis examines the expected economic impact for U.S small 
entities of a rule that will allow the importation of fresh blueberries 
from Morocco into the continental United States. Morocco expects to 
annually export 360,000 pounds of fresh blueberries to the continental 
United States. This quantity is equivalent to about one-tenth of 1 
percent of U.S. domestic supply (utilized production plus imports minus 
exports) between 2007 and 2012. We expect shipments to arrive in July 
and August, during the latter part of the U.S. season. Any impact on 
U.S. producers is expected to be negligible, given the relatively small 
quantity that Morocco intends to export to the United States.
    Under these circumstances, the Administrator of the Animal and 
Plant Health Inspection Service has determined that this action will 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities.

Executive Order 12988

    This final rule allows blueberries to be imported into the 
continental United States from Morocco. State and local laws and 
regulations regarding blueberries imported under this rule will be 
preempted while the fruit is in foreign commerce. Fresh fruits are 
generally imported for immediate distribution and sale to the consuming 
public, and remain in foreign commerce until sold to the ultimate 
consumer. The question of when foreign commerce ceases in other cases 
must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. No retroactive effect will 
be given to this rule, and this rule will not require administrative 
proceedings before parties may file suit in court challenging this 
rule.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act 
of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), the information collection or 
recordkeeping requirements included in this final rule, which were 
filed under 0579-0421, have been submitted for approval to the Office 
of Management and Budget (OMB). When OMB notifies us of its decision, 
if approval is denied, we will publish a document in the Federal 
Register providing notice of what action we plan to take.

E-Government Act Compliance

    The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is committed to 
compliance with the E-Government Act to promote the use of the Internet 
and other information technologies, to provide increased opportunities 
for citizen access to Government information and services, and for 
other purposes. For information pertinent to E-Government Act 
compliance related to this rule, please contact Mrs. Celeste Sickles, 
APHIS' Information Collection Coordinator, at (301) 851-2908.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 319

    Coffee, Cotton, Fruits, Imports, Logs, Nursery stock, Plant 
diseases and pests, Quarantine, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Rice, Vegetables.

    Accordingly, we are amending 7 CFR part 319 as follows:

PART 319--FOREIGN QUARANTINE NOTICES

0
1. The authority citation for part 319 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  7 U.S.C. 450, 7701-7772, and 7781-7786; 21 U.S.C. 
136 and 136a; 7 CFR 2.22, 2.80, and 371.3.


0
2. Section 319.56-69 is added to read as follows:


Sec.  319.56-69  Fresh blueberries from Morocco.

    Fresh fruit of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) and its 
hybrid varieties southern highbush blueberry [V. corymbosum x 
angustifolium (V. x atlanticum) and V. corymbosum x virgatum] may be 
imported into the continental United States from Morocco only under the 
conditions described in this section. These conditions are designed to 
prevent the introduction of the following quarantine pests: Ceratitis 
capitata, the Mediterranean fruit fly, and the fungus Monilinia 
fructigena Honey ex Whetzel.
    (a) The blueberries may be imported in commercial consignments 
only.
    (b) The blueberries must be grown at places of production that are 
registered with the national plant protection organization (NPPO) of 
Morocco.
    (c) During the growing season, blueberries must be inspected in the 
field by the NPPO of Morocco for signs of M. fructigena infestation 30 
days prior to harvest. If the fungal disease is detected, the NPPO of 
Morocco must notify APHIS. APHIS will prohibit the importation of 
blueberries from Morocco into the continental United States from the 
place of production for the remainder of the growing season. The 
exportation of blueberries from the rejected place of production may 
not resume until APHIS and the NPPO of

[[Page 44120]]

Morocco agree that appropriate remedial actions have been taken.
    (d) Each consignment of blueberries must be treated in accordance 
with 7 CFR part 305 for C. capitata.
    (e) Each consignment of blueberries must be accompanied by a 
phytosanitary certificate issued by the NPPO of Morocco with an 
additional declaration stating that the conditions of this section have 
been met, and that the consignment has been inspected prior to export 
from Morocco and found free of M. fructigena.


(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 
0579-0421)

    Done in Washington, DC, this 23rd day of July 2014.
Kevin Shea,
Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-17843 Filed 7-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P