The public comment period on a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to allow the importation of citrus from Argentina was extended July 11, but members of Congress continued to express dissatisfaction with the time restrictions for analysis.
On May 10, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published its proposed new rule with a 30-day comment period, which a bipartisan group opposed as too short to do a full analysis of the economic and biological impacts. Members of the group included U.S. Reps Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, and Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, among other California, Florida and Arizona representatives.
“This disappointing decision will not give experts the time needed to visit Argentina and review agency findings on pest and disease risks,” the members of Congress said in a statement, adding that “it remains critically important to protect California, Arizona, and Florida crops from devastating, invasive pests and diseases and to protect and support jobs in our local farming communities.”
APHIS ruled the lemons are safe to import with a systems approach, which would mandate safeguards at all levels of production, and require them to be treated for Mediterranean fruit fly. It also included provisions that restricted imports to April 1 through Aug. 31, when U.S. production declines.
While the agency expected producers throughout Arizona and California to lose between $10 million and $22 million dollars annually in its Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis published March 2015, it concluded that this would be offset by higher gains in consumer welfare, due to a 2-4 percent drop in prices.
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