Report on Beyond The Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan: AGM Joint Assessment
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
The Joint Assessment Process
- I. Prior to conducting joint assessment and trilateral negotiations
- II. Questions to be considered in developing joint phytosanitary assessment approach
- III. Questions and activities to be considered during the joint assessment and/or tri-lateral negotiations
- IV. Communicating results of joint assessment
- Examples of Findings from Recent Joint AGM Assessments
- Recommendations and Next Steps
The "Beyond The Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan" (PDF - 3.26 mb) was established to support enhanced long-term Canada-United States (U.S.) partnership built upon a perimeter approach to security and economic competitiveness. The plan identified joint priorities for achieving goals outlined in the Beyond the Border Declaration, and the United States and Canada share responsibility to support, develop, implement, manage, and monitor the initiatives undertaken to reach the goals. One specific priority is to address offshore threats before they arrive in Canada or the United States through risk management, joint measures, and technology.
To help protect the United States and Canada from risks to food safety or animal and plant health that could originate in third countries, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) were tasked with developing assessment processes and joint site-visit plans for commodities of common interest from other countries and addressing how to incorporate the findings of these site-visits into risk-management decisions. The two agencies were also tasked with development of a mechanism to share the results of assessments when conducted separately.
The AGM (Lymantria albescens, Lymantria umbrosa, Lymantria postalba, Lymantria dispar japonica and Lymantria dispar asiatica) program was adopted as a pilot project for the Beyond the Border (BtB) initiative. AGM is a pest prevalent in Asia that could cause significant damage to the forestry, agriculture and environmental sectors if it establishes in North America. Vessels arriving at Canadian or U.S. ports from AGM infested countries are often found with AGM egg masses. Under the BtB initiative, the CFIA and USDA-APHIS have agreed to a common approach to management of the risk at origin by development of pre-departure vessel certification programs with the country of origin. The United States and Canada recognize the tri-lateral approach and certification as a key measure in preventing AGM introduction into North America.
Task team members have studied and validated the joint assessment process used by the CFIA and APHIS in the tri-lateral approach for AGM issues involving regulated countries and affected stakeholders. The project included a review of how APHIS and the CFIA conduct joint assessment and coordination of responses to outstanding non-compliance issues with regulated countries and with domestic stakeholders. One of the key outcomes of the pilot project was identification of non-harmonized policies, procedures, or technical issues between the U.S. and Canadian AGM programs and mechanisms to address these differences are being considered. CFIA and APHIS continue to communicate, both formally and informally, to consider suggestions for improvements and improve the efficiency of the program.
This report summarizes the experience with joint assessments for the AGM risk mitigation systems in regulated countries. The report also discusses lessons learned for the development of best practices regarding conducting joint assessments and audits to address other offshore plant and animal health risks. The study highlights the benefit of establishing and fostering strong, collaborative relationships between our two countries. Increased information sharing and a close relationship have strengthened our ability to enhance the AGM pre-departure certification program and serves as a model for similar studies and initiatives.
AGM Lymantria dispar asiatica Vukovskij, L. dispar japonica (Motschulsky), L. albescens Hori and Umeno, L. umbrosa (Butler), and L. postalba Inque are not present in North America and are considered to be quarantine pests in Canada and the United States The regulated areas for AGM currently include Far East Russia, Japan, South Korea and China. The larval stage of AGM feeds on over 500 known host plants including many deciduous and coniferous trees and is considered to be a serious threat to North American forests, horticulture and agriculture industries and to biodiversity. If introduced, AGM could cause significant damage to the North American plant resource base, commerce that relies on those plant resources and to market access.
Given the potential negative impacts of AGM in North America, incursions of the pest in the past have required immediate and extensive eradication actions at significant cost. For example, major AGM outbreaks in the early 1990s in British Columbia and in the United States were linked to introductions of AGM from Asian ships and resulted in eradication programs costing Canada C$6 Million and the United States US$9 Million. The certification of vessels as free from AGM upon departure from ports in regulated areas is recognized by both the United States and Canada as a key measure in preventing AGM introduction into North America.
Canada and the U.S. implemented phytosanitary measures for AGM on vessels from the Russian Far East in 1992 to mitigate risk while minimizing impacts to Asia-Pacific trade. In 2007, under a North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) initiative, CFIA and APHIS informed China, Japan and South Korea that phytosanitary measures for AGM on ships calling on their ports would be required. APHIS and CFIA have met with officials in regulated countries to discuss pre-departure certification and surveillance programs, regulatory and policy issues, non-compliances and joint training. The CFIA and APHIS requirement for pre-departure certification for vessels as per the North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO) standard was fully implemented in 2012.
Currently, cyclical outbreaks of AGM in regulated countries are creating high risks for introduction through vessel traffic arriving in North America. During summer 2012, numerous detections of AGM were made on vessels and cargo originating from regulated ports in Korea, Japan and China. These detections lead to a loss of confidence in the pre-departure inspection and certification program, costly delays to stakeholders at North American ports and higher costs for risk mitigation in North America. This resulted in CFIA and APHIS actively engaging in a joint assessment to discuss issues and solution, determine plans of action in tri-lateral negotiations, and improve program objectives.
Canada and the United States believe that a well-maintained AGM certification program at origin continues to be the most cost efficient and effective method to mitigate the risk of AGM incursions with minimal impact to trade. APHIS and CFIA continue to work with the National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) of Korea, Japan, Russia and China to enhance the pre-departure inspection and certification program.
The Joint Assessment Process
The AGM program was chosen as a pilot under the BtB initiative for the development of joint assessment processes for plant health as it is an established program with a long history of U.S. and Canadian cooperation in the tri-lateral approach. This pilot project provided an opportunity to evaluate the strengths and challenges of the program, document the on-going assessment process and identify areas for program enhancements. The experience with the development of this program from its inception to date could serve as guiding principles for future tri-lateral programs.
The following are the key elements proposed for joint assessment based on the process prepared and developed during the AGM pilot study. The elements were identified by CFIA and APHIS officials involved in their respective country's AGM program. Based on past experiences, current discussion, and future outlook the AGM working group believe the following elements could be generally applicable in conducting joint assessments for the mitigation of agricultural risks from third countries.
I. Prior to conducting joint assessment and trilateral negotiations
- Teleconferences, as required, to ensure that agendas for meetings and site visits would provide what is jointly sought (i.e. Prepare questions/evaluations for assessments)
- Ensure that Embassy contacts for Canada and United States in the country being assessed are engaged with the same information at the same time. It is preferable that the U.S, and Canadian embassy contacts work together in delivering information and making arrangements with the third country's National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO).
- Canadian and U.S. presentations and other material provided before, during and after meetings should be complementary, as is possible and practical. This avoids duplication, reinforces a common approach and allows focus on particular program details for the United States and Canada.
- Key areas of divergence in policy and programs need to be identified and addressed before meetings with third parties. For example, CFIA and APHIS should agree beforehand on responses to anticipated questions from the third party where we have divergent views or policies or legislative reach. From the outset, identify areas where there are differences in regulatory reach, legislation, policy, philosophy, etc. This is particularly important when conducting an assessment on each other's behalf. What may be acceptable to Canada may not be acceptable to the United States and vice-versa.
- Pre-meeting with Canadian and U.S. Embassy staff
- Face-to-face review of agenda and itinerary to ensure that key points and gaps are identified and prepared
- Share roles (i.e. key points delivered as per expertise of delegates so as to ensure that all aspects of the joint message are covered and that full participation of delegates is facilitated)
II. Questions to be considered in developing joint phytosanitary assessment approach
- What are the goals of the off-shore program or system that we are seeking to clarify or strengthen?
- What are the overall requirements and are requirements common to both Canada and the United States - identify differences?
- How will we request the information that we need? (e.g. letter, teleconference, video-conference, face-to-face meetings, site visits, embassy meetings with NPPO, etc.)
- What are the indicators that the system is working? Are demonstrations or site visits required and if so has adequate time been allocated to schedule?
- How do we take mitigating measures when the system fails? (e.g. timely communication with NPPO and stakeholders, enhanced inspection at ports of entry, enhanced documentation, mandatory inspection reports from third country, timely and detailed feedback on instances of non-compliance back to NPPOs, timely communication between APHIS and the CFIA on non-compliances and issues, etc.)
III. Questions and activities to be considered during the joint assessment and/or tri-lateral negotiations
- Information exchange including a summary of inspection results and non-compliance
- Discussion of barriers to compliance (e.g. legislation, delayed departures, possibilities of re-infestation beyond control of NPPO, etc.)
- Discussion of training needs? How are inspectors trained and qualified - standardized training?
- Changes to requirements and/or implementation methodology and policy changes
- Discussion of mechanism for auditing of the certification bodies and significant findings from past audits.
- Knowledge gaps - are there opportunities for collaborative research? Are there training needs?
- Identify opportunities to engage with inspection and certification bodies, industry and scientists
- Determine appropriate communication formats, mechanisms and information/data sharing (e.g. directly with NPPOs, through embassy, etc.)
IV. Communicating results of joint assessment
The findings of the joint audit should be summarized in a report by those conducting the assessment. The report should include:
- A list of participants and their contact information (for future communication and follow-up of issues)
- Documentation of successes and issues of concern
- Identification of follow-up actions, by whom and when
- Identification of areas of agreement and disagreement
- Identification of opportunities for further collaboration and cooperation
- Recommendations for the CFIA, USDA, NPPOs and stakeholders
Examples of Findings from Recent Joint AGM Assessments
In addition to the preceding general elements, several key findings were documented when conducting the joint AGM assessments. It is expected that these specific findings will contribute to overall knowledge and program enhancement.
- Delayed departure following AGM inspection and certification at regulated ports is a common concern and potential factor in non-compliance.
- Timely communication/information flow between NPPOs was identified as a mechanism for improving follow-up actions on non-compliance (e.g. more timely information on detections).
- Precise and detailed information on detections including location and photos is used by regulated areas to improve the AGM program at origin. Follow-up action is improved with more detailed information on detections.
- Ensuring that requirements and key messages are as consistent as possible increases the likelihood of success for this program. Canada and the United States. are harmonized on the regulated areas and vessel certification requirements from those areas. (i.e., vessels are required to have a certificate during the high risk period and must be free of AGM upon arrival in North America).
Recommendations and Next Steps
Consideration should be given to further harmonization, as appropriate, between U.S. and Canadian processes at port of entry and to further refinement/streamlining of the program. For example:
- NPPOs of regulated areas should establish formal processes to ensure consistency among and within certification bodies (e.g. standardized training, delivery standards, communication). This is expected to lead to increased consistency and increased compliance.
- Within a regulated country, minimizing the number of periods during which inspection and certification is required should be considered, where possible, for ease of implementation and increased compliance.
- Ongoing communication is critical to the success of the AGM vessel certification program. Engagement with NPPOs in regulated areas must be combined with education and outreach to the shipping industry. Joint memoranda to industry should continue as vessels often call on both Canada and the United States.
- Determine if current requirements mitigate the risk of pest introduction or if modifications are required. (E.g. determine if the areas currently regulated for AGM and the specified periods are consistent with available literature and data for AGM detections. Are the current boundaries and timeframes appropriate or should they be modified? Any change to the areas regulated or the specified periods should be adopted by both the United States and Canada simultaneously with an appropriate transition period to ensure compliance).
- Determine if further harmonization between the U.S. and Canadian processes can be achieved. (e.g., process at ports of arrival. Greater harmonization may lead to increased compliance. Must be science based and consistent with legislation in place).
- The United States and Canada should continue to share information on pest pressure, survey data and detections as it becomes available.
Other plant health joint assessment programs could significantly benefit from the experience with the AGM pre-departure certification program joint assessments. While establishment of a standard process contributes to the success of the AGM program, it is the collaborative relationship and approach between the United States and Canada that is the essential component. As a result of that partnership and common approach our position for engagement and negotiations with third countries is strengthened.
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