WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is delaying the effective date and establishing a staggered implementation for the collection of user fees for inspections of Canadian-grown fruits and vegetables, commercial vessels, trucks, railroad cars and aircraft, as well as international passengers entering the United States from Canada.

The delay will allow affected industries time to prepare for the change.

The interim rule establishing these fees was originally scheduled to take effect on Nov. 24. This delay will allow affected groups to make necessary preparations in order to comply with the inspection and collection procedures that will be instituted.

Effective Jan. 1, 2007, air passengers arriving in the United States from Canada will no longer be exempt from the international air passenger user fee. Effective March 1, 2007, the remaining provisions of the rule will take effect, including the removal of the user fee exemption for all commercial conveyances entering the United States from Canada.

All inspections on the U.S.-Canada border are conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These inspections are necessary to further prevent the introduction of plant and animal pests and diseases into the United States via conventional pathways or through bioterrorism.

Recent inspections along the U.S.-Canadian border resulted in numerous interceptions of prohibited fruits and vegetables, originating from regions other than Canada. These products pose a risk of introducing plant pests into the United States. APHIS is also concerned about agricultural and other products originating in Canada that could serve as host material for pests and diseases if left uninspected.

The amended regulations will decrease the risk of pests and diseases entering the United States from Canada and enable APHIS and CBP to recover their agricultural quarantine and inspection (AQI) costs through user fees and expand AQI activities along the U.S.-Canada border.

Notice of this action is scheduled for publication in the Nov. 22 Federal Register. To read the interim rule, go to www.aphis.usda.gov.

SOURCE: USDA news release.