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US to raise fees for agricultural quarantine inspections

TORONTO,Ont. – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said today it will publish its final rule on October 29, 2015 that adjusts the fees the US Government charges to recoup the costs of conducting agricultural quarantine inspections (AQI) at US ports of entry for all modes of transportation.

For trucking, fees are applied whether or not the truck crossing the border is carrying agricultural products. The changes are set to take effect on December 28, 2015.

The rule was first published back in April 2014 and proposed the annual APHIS fee be increased by 205% per truck entering the US from Canada with transponders up to 52% without transponders.

The USDA argues the fee hike is necessary to align the actual cost of providing the services with what the US Government charges and the “AQI fee adjustments are consistent with the United States’ international trade obligations.” The CTA and the Government of Canada both voiced their concerns over the hike after the proposal.

The USDA said APHIS “carefully considered all of the public input it received on the proposed rule, and adjusted the final fees in response” and that certain fees have been lowered from the April 2014 proposal.

Now, commercial truck fees for trucks crossing the border without a transponder will now be increased to US$7.55 (from the current level of US$5.25) compared to the April 2014 proposal of US$8 per crossing. For trucks using transponders the annual fee will rise from US$105 to US$301.67 compared to the initial proposed fee of US$320 per transponder.

David Bradley, president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance said the price adjustments are of “absurd.”

“This is a cash grab and a tax on trade,” he said. “We’re still looking at increases of 44% for non-transponder trucks and 187% for trucks with transponders. That is absurd and a complete contradiction of the principles of the US-Canada Beyond the Border Accord. The fees were grudgingly tolerated by the trade community, although we always found it incredible that all trucks were being assessed the fees whether or not they were being inspected and whether or not they were carrying agricultural products.”

Bradley noted that when the fee increases were proposed initially, CTA obtained a legal opinion that was supported by the Government of Canada. It found the very existence of the fees is inconsistent with the United States’ obligations under Article 310 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which says that “all fees and charges shall not represent an indirect protection to domestic products or a taxation of imports or exports for fiscal purposes.”

Bradley said he hopes Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will take up the issue and challenge the law as soon as it becomes effective.

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