On January 25, 2021, ACE filing will be mandatory for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)-Core PGA Message set. The NCBFAA RAC has assembled these resources all in one place for brokers to use as you prepare for implementation. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to get started now. An important part of your preparation will be to educate importers and employees as to what is and is not regulated.


* For tariff subheadings flagged with an AQ-2: you must file an APHIS-Core Message Set.


* For tariff subheadings flagged with an AQ-1: you may be required to file an APHIS-Core Message Set in ACE. Or, you may not, in which case you file a disclaim. To figure this out, you will need information about the product from the importer and then consider APHIS requirements for that commodity.


After that, it is a matter of getting comfortable with the APHIS data elements. We suggest you carefully review the Supplemental Trade Guide, shown below, and watch the Webinars, also with a link provided below. We hope the following resources will help. If you have additional questions, let us know at: RAC@ncbfaa.org.

APHIS Electronic Manuals
Quick Reference
Animal Product Manual
Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements (FAVIR) Online Database
Plants for Planting Manual
Seeds Not for Planting Manual
Miscellaneous Processed Products
Cut Flowers and Greenery Import Manual



Understanding APHIS-Core Import Requirements

APHIS is responsible, in part, for ensuring the free flow of agricultural trade by keeping U.S. agricultural industries free from pests and diseases. The range of commodities subject to APHIS-Core import requirements is very broad, covering plants and plant products, seeds, animal products and miscellaneous processed products. Some of the commodities are obvious: plants for planting, seeds, cut flowers or live dogs. Others are not so obvious (certain straw hats, used farm equipment, feathers for stuffing, or certain gelatin products, for example) and will require diligence on the part of brokers and importers to determine when the APHIS-Core Message Set is required in ACE.


The Harmonized Tariff Schedule flags (AQ-1 or AQ-2) over 2000 subheadings that contain or may contain APHIS-Core regulated products. For AQ-1 flagged products, where the APHIS-Core PGA Message Set may or may not be required, the general rule is: if a license, permit, certificate or other (LPCO) document is required, then a PGA Message set must be filed in ACE. If no LPCO is required by APHIS, then a disclaim is filed. Often, this may depend upon the country where the product originated or the particular material or ingredients used to produce the product.


This means you will need to have an understanding of APHIS requirements so you can determine whether to file a disclaim or a PGA Message Set. Following are resources on APHIS’ website that will help you in this effort.


"Comment from the RAC: APHIS-Core is one of the most challenging PGA Message Sets for brokers. Up until now, most brokers were not part of the APHIS-Core related information flow, since APHIS-Core documents were in paper form and passed on to CBP-Ag by the carrier. Adding to the complexity, many of the data elements are unfamiliar to brokers - such as the genus and species. So, it is tough, but stay with it. It will eventually make sense."



Overview of PGA Message Set By APHIS Program

APHIS-Core ACE PGA Message Set: Supplemental Trade Guide - Appendix APH-A: This guide is essentially a "job aid" aimed at separating the operational data entry concepts from the technical aspects of the APHIS Message sets. Much of this information was generated as a result of questions or recommendations by trade to produce material explaining the APHIS Message Set in a less technical way. This resource is a good first step towards understanding the APHIS-Core PGA Message Set.
APHIS-Core ACE PGA Message Set Implementation Guide:This is a very detailed, technical implementation guide, providing explicit line-by-line instructions for transmitting the APHIS-Core Message Set. However, if you dig into the guide you can find full APHIS Core examples for each product category, tables of errors with correction guidance, and diagrams/flow charts for different PG lines and categories. If you are looking for a more user-friendly resource, go to the Supplemental Trade Guide above.
Checklist: What To Ask Importers About Their Product?

Animal Products Checklist

Fruits and Vegetables Checklist

Miscellaneous and Processed Products Checklist

Other Useful Resources

How to Approach The APHIS-Core Message (see attached pdf)

Master HTS Correlation Spreadsheet for APHIS Core Message: See the 4th bullet under Resources at this link for a regularly updated spreadsheet: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/importexport/ace/audience/broker-filers

Disease status of regions can be found at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-and-animal-product-import-information/animal-health-status-of-regions

Disease Status can also be found in Animal Products Manual: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/manuals/ports/downloads/apm.pdf

-Appendix C List of Foreign Countries and Their Disease. Table C-1-1

-Abbreviations used to describe the disease status categories


Subscribe to APHIS email Updates: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAAPHIS/subscriber/new

Contact APHIS ACE Team: ace.itds@usda.gov

APHIS-Core Frequently Asked Questions:A searchable list of FAQs developed by APHIS can be found here


Webinars: NCBFAA partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on a series of webinars to help the Trade navigate the upcoming implementation of the APHIS Core Message Set in the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). The webinars—six in all-cover a wide range of APHIS-regulated products, including fresh fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, animal products, miscellaneous and processed products, seeds not for planting, and plants for planting. You may view the webinars here. More recently, the RAC held a Team of Experts webinar featuring customs brokers who have been filing the APHIS-Core Message Set for over a year and provide valuable insight into navigating these complex requirements. You can view a replay here


Attendees to NCBFAA's APHIS Team of Experts webinar posed a number of questions to panelists. We submitted those questions to APHIS and the answers can be found here.To view a PowerPoint copy of the presentation, please click here. The video archive of the webinar may be found here. The NCBFAA Regulatory Agencies Committee (RAC) invites you to submit additional questions that you may have as you prepare for APHIS implementation of the mandatory ACE filing requirements. We will provide answers from APHIS in future MMBs. Send your questions to: RAC@ncbfaa.org.





1. Is a Permit Required?


With the broad and varied scope of AQ1-flagged products, often we have no idea whether an APHIS Message Set is required. b) We do not even know what questions to ask our importer clients to determine whether a permit is required (and therefore an APHIS Message Set). For example, for the following commodities made of straw, what information about the product do I need from the importer to determine if a Permit is required or if I can disclaim?



2. Admissibility Guidance


We took the approach above and posed this specific admissibility question to the APHIS Imports customer service email (rather than the APHIS ACE Team) We are looking for admissibility guidance on importation of WOMEN'S STRAW TOTE FROM CHINA which has undergone fumigation. Can you advise any import requirements for these items to the US? Is there any License, Permit, Certificate required for Importation?



3. Criteria for Common Name


Are there any specific criteria that must be followed for the common name (Pg17)? Can filers pull the line-level description into the common name field? For example, can filers transmit "tomato" for both grape tomatoes and plum tomatoes, as an example?



4. Globally Unique Product Identification Code


Is a globally unique product code a mandatory data field for the APHIS Core message set? If mandatory, how would importers and filers determine when the globally unique product code is required?



5. Garden Tools Flagged


I have a shipment of garden tools. My HTS is flagging for "APHIS Core may be required." What do I need to ask my importer to determine if APHIS-Core is required?



6. Food Products


We handle a lot of food items and If the tariff (at this time) does NOT require APHIS, are we safe to presume it is NOT required?




7. FTZ Process


Please explain the process for products being entered into a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ).



8. Non-Shelf Stable Milk Products


What are the APHIS-Core requirements in ACE for Non Shelf Stable Milk Products, including:


Non Shelf Stable Milk Products

  • Chocolate milk
  • Clotted cream
  • Eggnog
  • Flavored milk
  • Half-and-half
  • Heavy cream
  • Ice cream


  • Lactose-free milk
  • Liquid infant formula
  • Milk
  • Flavored milk
  • Sherbet
  • Skim milk
  • Whey
  • Whipping cream
  • Mixture of the above products


Additional questions can be found here and here


Is a Permit Required?


Answer 1 APHIS Core message set for AQ1 (data may be required)-flagged products are required when the commodity requires a license, permit, certificate, or other (LPCO) document for admissibility per APHIS regulations. Importers and brokers can learn more about APHIS admissibility requirements by visiting the APHIS Import & Exports website (https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/importexport ) or contacting APHIS through the many customer service numbers and e-mails (https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/banner/contactus ).



When reaching out to APHIS customer service, let them know your question is about product admissibility and not the APHIS Message Set. Provide as much information about the product as possible such as a description of the product, country of origin, treatments, and any processing that has been done to the product. After utilizing these resources, if the product does not require a LPCO then the filer may disclaim the APHIS Core message set. The APHIS Supplemental Trade Guide (https://www.cbp.gov/document/guidance/aphis-ace-pga-message-set-implementation-guide-core ) provides further guidance on disclaiming methodology.


It is also important to remember that the APHIS Core message set is not changing the requirements for importation, but just the method of providing the information to APHIS. Required document submission currently happens by presenting paper or through the submission of those documents in CBP's Document Image System (DIS). The APHIS Core Message set replaces many of those documents with submission of electronic data elements. The required information to submit the message set should be available to brokers before shipment arrival, just as done today with documentation.


Historically, the importer takes the initiative to determine the admissibility requirements of the products and applies for APHIS permits, if applicable. If an importer is new or needs direction then the customs broker should provide their customers with the necessary resources to contact APHIS and determine the admissibility requirements of their products. Importers should contact APHIS far in advance of shipping a product to determine LPCO requirements. Brokers should also communicate to their customers that documentation needs to be provided prior to arrival at U.S. Ports of Entry to allow time for filing of APHIS Core message set and for inspectors to verify that proper information is available to make an admissibility determination. In general, APHIS has made it the responsibility of the importer/owner of the goods to make sure they have acquired all the necessary documentation for importation.


Admissibility Guidance


Answer 2: USDA Answer- If the article(s) is fully dried or processed and cannot be propagated and is free from plant pest no Permit is required. However, the plant origin material is subject to inspection (Regulated 7 CFR § 319) and the Final Decision is that of the inspecting Customs Officer.



If the article meets above statement, cargo can be disclaimed: "B" Not regulated per agency guidance, as long as the HTS is flagged AQ1. APHIS recommend a good "OI" description such as "Fully Finished women's straw tote." The fully finished addition to the description provides the reviewing officer the information they need to make an agriculture decision.


Be advised the plant origin material must be declared to Customs. According to section 592 of Customs Law, a fine will be given as a "spot penalty" for the non-declaration of the material, and the product will be confiscated.


If unable to meet the above statement you must complete a PPQ 587 form (see our website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov ) to apply for an import permit to permit the importation of plant origin material into the United States.


The form can be submitted electronically to the ePermit. The Permit Specialist will review and issue an Import Permit, a Letter of No Jurisdiction/No Permit Required or a Letter of Denial.


Processing is workload dependent and may take up to 30 business/working days. It is suggested that no product be shipped to the importer from the exporter prior to the Import Permit being issued.


Should you have questions, please contact our office at USDA at 301-851-2046.


Criteria for Common Name


Answer 3: APHIS Answer- Yes. APHIS requests filers provide the common name for the regulated product. For instance, grape and plum tomatoes are regulated as tomato, which would be provided as the common specific name. Animal products may have a general name when listing a product with more specific components. For example, PG02 a product reported as bouillon can have a component reported as milk. When looking for terminology to use you may refer to import documentation such as permits and phytosanitary certificates. Additional resources for fruits and vegetables include using APHIS's FAVIR Database.



Globally Unique Product Identification Code


Answer 4: APHIS Answer- The PG01 globally unique product code is an optional field for the APHIS Core message set. APHIS recommends speaking to your software vendor about using this field and the PG02 Product code in combination with PG05 Scientific name and P17 Common name to auto-populate fields for commonly imported goods.



Garden Tools Flagged


Answer 5: APHIS Answer-



If the equipment is NEW:

  • The goods can be disclaimed as not regulated by APHIS.
  • "Disclaimer Code A - Not Regulated by APHIS" is used in ACE.


If the equipment is USED:

Determine if the equipment originates from a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) region by referencing APHIS' Animal Health Status of Regions:

  • Select foot-and-mouth disease from the listed diseases.
  • The list of countries under the prompt indicates regions that APHIS has declared FREE of FMD.
  • This status may update frequently, so it is important to confirm the disease status of the region prior to importation.


If the used equipment is from an FMD-free region, and:

  • The equipment is clean, dry, and free of animal material, soil, and contamination, then:
  • No permit or certificate is required, but a statement should be included with the commercial documents declaring that the equipment is "clean, dry, and free of animal material/soil/contamination."
  • Disclaimer Code B - Data not required per agency guidance" is used in ACE
  • The equipment is unclean/contaminated, then: the machine MUST be cleaned and washed PRIOR to entry.


If the used equipment originates from a known FMD region, then there are restrictions:

  • An import permit is not needed, but an ORIGINAL steam cleaning certificate issued by the foreign government's animal health service or agency is required.
  • The certificate must have an official seal and must state that the used farm equipment was steam cleaned and is free of all dirt and particulate matter.
  • It must be signed by an official representative of the national animal health service from the region of
  • A full message set must be transmitted in ACE


Additional Information


Restrictions for used farm equipment are detailed in 9CFR94.1(C) 91.1(c) The importation of any used farm equipment that originates in any region where foot-and-mouth disease exists as designated in paragraph (a) of this section, is prohibited, unless the equipment is accompanied by an original certificate signed by an authorized official of the national animal health service of the exporting region that states that the equipment, after its last use and prior to export, was steam-cleaned free of all exposed dirt and other particulate matter.


Such farm equipment is subject to APHIS inspection at the port of arrival. If it is found during such inspection to contain any exposed dirt or other particulate matter, it will be denied entry into the United States, unless, in the judgment of the APHIS inspector, the amount of exposed soil is minimal enough to allow cleaning at the port of arrival, and there are adequate facilities and personnel at the port to conduct such cleaning without risk of disease contamination.


Animal Product Manual, Table 3-8-4 * Refer to APHIS' "Animal Product Manual" for information on the import of used farm machinery.


Food Products


Answer 6:


We suggest you run a query on any HTS numbers involved with your client(s) and check the PGA flags for each number. Your system should show you somewhere which flags apply to each HTS. If the commodity is not flagged AQ1 or AQ2 and there are no license, permits, certificates, or other (LPCO) documents required for admissibility than no APHIS Core message set is required. The HTS has many codes that are very general categories and APHIS cannot be certain that all tariffs related to APHIS regulated materials have been captured. For this reason, the APHIS Core message set requirement is based on the presence of a LPCO. APHIS continues to monitor message set submissions and regularly updates flagging as necessary. If there are AQ flags of some kind, the following may help.


As an example, the HTS number for carrot seeds has an AQ2 flag, so APHIS Core data is required, while the FDA flag is FD3, so FDA can be disclaimed because we know it isn't a food:


Fennel seed, on the other hand, is a special case because a chapter note dictates that it must be declared in the spice chapter, not seeds for sowing (even though they are seeds for sowing). The HTS number applicable has an FD4 flag, so FDA data is required, and an AQ1 flag, so APHIS Core data may be required. In our case, since we know it is a seed for sowing, we have to transmit both the APHIS Core data and the FDA data.


So, check the HTS numbers you're wondering about, and if they have AQ1 flags, and you can be sure your products pass the disclaim tests, you should be OK.


Although remember, the HTS is only used as a guide and not a definitive indication if goods are regulated or not. It will depend on ingredients, process, country of origin etc. You may NOT auto disclaim based on AQ1 "may be required" flag.


This is a "Know your Product" matter. If the product is regulated it must be declared regardless of presence or type of flag.


You should ask for admissibility advice:


FTZ Process


Answer 7:


Products that will enter an FTZ will follow the current paper process for submitting APHIS documentation to the CBP Agriculture Inspectors at arrival in the port (either paper docs or email, as required by the port). Later, when products are withdrawn from the zone into commerce (Entry Type 06), there will be no AQ-1 or AQ-2 flags as 06 entry types are exempt from the PGA Message Set. To summarize, for imports headed to an FTZ, the process is:


1. Shipment arrives.

2. Broker/filer provides APHIS documentation to CBP Ag inspector at the port (paper or email, as required by port).

3. Cleared to move to zone.

4. Leaves zone to enter commerce (Entry Type 06) - Exempt from APHIS Message Set.

APHIS has directed CBP to suppress the HTS flags by entry type. Brokers should test their software to be certain no APHIS flags appear when filing an 06 entry.


Non-Shelf Stable Milk Products


Answer 8:


For Non-shelf stable milk products, the VS Permitting Assistant (VSPA) this resource can provide admissibility guidance without needing to review the animal product manual. If an importer/exporter cannot obtain the required certification for the milk product (when certification is an option), the VSPA directs the importer to apply for a permit for the non-shelf stable milk. The permit should be applied for before importing the material. Note that the permit conditions may still require a foreign government certificate; details are provided in the issued permit.


If people wish to view the decision guidance given to CBP to regulate these non shelf stable milk products, please view the Animal Product Manual table below. Note that if a valid VS permit is presented, CBP will follow the requirements listed on the permit.


Animal Product Manual


Table 3-14-4

1. Canada : Proof of Origin (see below) If AQ1 Can disclaim "B" If AQ2 then non LPCO Message Set

2. Other than Canada


a. Is the country is affected by Foot and Mouth that is appropriately certified


You can see if country is free of foot and mouth here


Certification endorsed by the veterinary service of the exporting country or region with the following statement: "The milk/milk product was processed in [name of country], a region listed in 9 CFR § 94.1(a)(2) from milk produced in [name of country], a region listed in 9 CFR § 94.1(a)(2) as free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The milk/milk product has never been in any region in which FMD exists, except when moving under seal as described in 9 CFR § 94.16(c).”

b. Other: Need VS Permit



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