Trend Watch: Plant Protection and Safe Trade

November 1, 2016

Brian Isard

It was a first for our industry, getting invited to the annual North American Plant Protection Organization’s (NAPPO) meeting in Montreal last week where we joined the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in their presentation on Alternate Service Delivery organizations as well consulting with the NAPPO expert group on their new standard entitled: A Systems Approach To Managing Pest Risks With the Movement of Wood. 

We learned that under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the North American Free Trade Agreement they function as the regional plant protection organization for North America which encompasses the US ,Canada and Mexico . This is where the government bodies responsible for plant protection in each country, USDA APHIS, CFIA and SENASICA, work at developing phytosanitary standards and new regulatory approaches to plant health issues for North America.

Broadly speaking the strategic goals of NAPPO are to:

  • protect North American plant resources, including natural ecosystems, from the introduction and spread of regulated plant pests; 
  • harmonize plant protection activities designed to facilitate safe trade; 
  • promote and maintain the scientific and technical research on plant protection activities;
  • contribute leadership in the international phytosanitary community, and;
  • maintain active industry/stakeholder engagement in NAPPO activities.

The meeting had wide industry participation representing such diverse plant crops as potato, seeds , grain, citrus , fresh fruit, horticultural products, and forestry from all three countries. Most of these industry groups have been coming to these NAPPO meetings for the past forty years but it was the first time that the wood packaging industry was participating. In talking to the industry groups they told me that they attended with one particular viewpoint in mind…to find out what is “on the table” with respect to plant health issues and what’s likely to be the problems your industry will face in the years to come.  

The agenda for the meeting was informative and if you want to have a look here it is:

We had an opportunity to hear from the most senior plant heath government personnel in all three countries about directions in new regulations. This forum is where regulations that will impact how phytosanitary controls on plant products, including wood packaging, are developed. Our presence at this meeting proved positive for our association and its members as policy changes that are being contemplated by top ranking plant health experts will in fact have a significant impact on both the forestry and wood packaging industries. While we may not be able to halt or significantly alter these policies, our voice will certainly allow us to have an impact on how the policy foundations are built with regards to our industry. 

We were there to voice our concerns on the criteria and risk assessment models being used to assess the potential pest infestation on previously treated wood products with support of the scientists.

We also heard that:

  • Pest management specialists have identified 300 wood boring pests overseas that have the potential to threaten our domestic plant species that we must protect against at our borders. Roughly one in one hundred pests are “high impact” and that there is strong anticipation that another high impact wood borer will arrive in the USA in the next ten years. It’s important to note that remedial costs associated with these high impact pests are borne by municipalities and private landowners, and the most noticeable impacts are in the urban canopy. For this reason, keeping the profile of wood packaging positive is critical, as is maintaining high levels of participation in ISPM-15 programs.
  • The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is referred to as a high impact pest and the costs for eradication efforts is escalating rapidly as municipalities and state and provincial governments work to deal with the spread of EAB through the North American forests. Reducing pest threats associated with both wood packaging and firewood remains a high priority for the plant protection authorities. 
  • New cost impact studies developed by ecologists at McGill University are pointing towards the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No 15 (ISPM-15), as the most effective means of managing these escalating pest management costs.

The corner-stone of the safe trade of wood packaging will continue to be ISPM-15 and steps are being taken to strengthen how it operates in North America. As an industry association we benefit from participating in these -high level meetings and organizations that significantly impact on how our industry operates today and in the years to come. The closing remarks from the last presenter were quite poignant and I think reflects the viewpoints of the scientists and policy makers. “SAFE TRADE DOES NOT JUST HAPPEN”. Let’s think about that as we move to elevate the status of wood packaging, and promote the positive attributes of our products.

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