APHIS Provides Useful Information for Brokers in Response to COVID-19 Crisis
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reports to NCBFAA that they are working on some general guidance to the Trade that should soon be available. In the meantime, the agency provided these responses to NCBFAA questions:
Question: Do you anticipate any interruption in the processing of Import or Export cargo regulated by your agency?
APHIS Response: At the current time we have not experienced any impacts to cargo related to changes in CBP or USDA APHIS activities. Related to export certifications we are trying to assess the impact recent decisions by the states to close all non-essential businesses may have on our ability to carry out our activities. As of now, we do not have any impacts identified. I would suggest your members contact their local businesses or USDA APHIS offices to inquire on operating status, for the most up to date information. The situation is fluid and we will provide guidance if anything changes.
Question: Do you expect staffing shortages that will delay inspections?
APHIS Response: As of now we have not seen any impacts on inspections. We have moved to mostly digital imaging to enable continued pest identification services. Plant Inspection Stations and Ports are operational. The majority of our policy office staff are in telework status and still accessible by phone and email as normal.
Question: If a port closes temporarily, how can a shipment be rerouted to another port?
APHIS Response: Our guidance is to refer brokers to the CBP office of Trade for rerouted shipments, the general number is 1-877-227-5511. If issues arise work with your local port to address logistical challenges.
Question: If we have a "May Proceed" in ACE and the cargo is subsequently diverted by the carrier to another port, Will the "May Proceed" still stand, or will we need to notify the agency?
APHIS Response: APHIS Core currently provides an auto "May Proceed," message when a message set meets all validations and business rules. The issuance of a "may proceed," does not supersede CBP Agriculture's authority to hold shipments for review and inspection.
Question: Is there any other information that you would like to broadcast to the trade?
APHIS Response: We have informed CBP that due to COVID-19 USDA will accept scanned versions of phytosanitary certificates uploaded into DIS while the emergency lasts. We understand that many brokers are having difficulty accessing offices or getting required documents from the country of origin. We will be sending this information out shortly along with some allowances for electronically submitted animal product information.