Update, Jan. 15: The Capital Press agricultural newspaper (Salem, Ore.) has published a news story about the change in rules and what it means, including more in-depth comments from OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it has revised regulations (PDF) that are intended to prevent the spread of Phytophthora ramorum in nursery production. The pathogen is the cause of sudden oak death.
Effective March 31, 2014, nurseries producing known host plant species in regulated areas (California, Oregon and Washington) will no longer be required to be inspected, sampled and certified — unless the disease has actually been detected at that nursery on or after March 31, 2011. Any nurseries that have tested positive will remain subject to regulation until they remain clean for three years.
“Oregon nurseries have unmatched quality, and ship clean plants,” said Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries. “Any regulatory scheme should reward good behavior, work with those who have a problem to fix it, allow states and the federal government to manage their inspection resources in a cost effective manner.
“The USDA deserves a lot of credit for getting this right,” he added. “They worked with OAN, AmericanHort and our federal lobbying team to create a fair system that protects everyone.”
Nurseries located in counties that are quarantined — not just regulated — will remain under more stringent regulations. There are 14 such counties in California, plus one in Oregon that is located hundreds of miles away from Oregon’s main nursery production areas. In the quarantined areas, the pathogen exists in the natural environment, and thus there is a greater risk of disease spreading.
The OAN published the Safe Procurement and Production Manual, which outlines production methods that prevent the spread of plant pathogens including P. ramorum. This 106-page manual can be downloaded here.