Nurseries can’t afford to let disease spread. They take seriously the threat of Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death – and so does the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
For several years, APHIS has had rules in effect to protect ecosystems and plant material. Nurseries in Oregon and California have an outstanding record of compliance with these rules. That may explain why there is not one documented instance of a plant infected with P. ramorum making its way to South Carolina from either California or Oregon. However, in 2009, the South Carolina Assembly Regulation 27-78, which pertains to P. ramorum.
The regulation requires state documentation that doesn’t exist, effectively making it impossible for California and Oregon growers to ship any plants to South Carolina. As a result of these rules, plants valued at more than $1 million have been needlessly destroyed at owner expense.
On Monday, the Oregon Association of Nurseries and the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers sued South Carolina in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit (PDF) alleges that the rule violates the Plant Protection Act as well as the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and asks the court to overturn the regulation.
“Nurseries take very seriously the threat of plant diseases,” OAN Executive Director John Aguirre said. “Over 70 percent of Oregon’s nursery sales are destined for buyers outside our state. Oregon growers cannot allow states to violate federal law in an effort to close their markets to our growers.”
Attempts to resolve the issue without turning to the courts failed. “We had no other option but to defend our nurseries from being cut off from their customers in South Carolina,” CANGC Vice President Robert Dolezal said.
Read the full press release (PDF).