Bug-Free Pallets Could Add to Border Delays

Until recently, shipments entering the United States from Canada were exempt from a requirement that all wooden pallets be treated for bugs prior to arrival at the border.  But now, the U.S. Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to end that exemption, claiming that more than 320 million Canadian pallets cross the border each year, bringing the threat of bug infestation that poses a risk to U.S. agriculture and forest safety.

While APHIS’ proposed change is still in draft form, it has generated backlash on both sides of the border.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) responded by issuing its own recommendation — to eliminate the pallet-treatment exemption currently extended to U.S. shippers.

Today’s Trucking.com reported that the government of Canada has urged APHIS to delay implementation until at least 2013, warning that the new rule would “have serious consequences for Canada-U.S. trade and North American competitiveness.

And trucking officials have raised concerns about the added delays that would result, as agents would be required to inspect each pallet.  The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) expressed concern that the changes not be implemented until an adequate supply of treated-pallets is accessible – which is currently not the case.  As reported by Canadian Transportation&Logistics, CTA CEO David Bradley wrote to APHIS, stating that:  “CTA has seen too many examples in recent years where new measures affecting the border have been rushed, only to be withdrawn at the 11th hour when it became apparent that they were unworkable.  Let’s just take the time to get this right.

In addition to delays, there is concern about the costs of complying with the pallet-treatment mandate.  The Canadian Wood Pallet Association estimates that it will cost $2(Canadian) per pallet for treatment, for a total of about $300 million (Canadian).

U.S. border agents will begin notifying non-compliant shippers of the rule change in the coming weeks, with actual enforcement to be phased in at a yet-to-be determined date.  For shipments headed north to Canada, the new requirement will be phased in beginning this year, with full compliance expected by the summer of 2012.

Which side of the issue is more important to you, reduced delays or environmental concerns?