The US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced proposed changes to the fees it charges to recoup the costs of agricultural quarantine inspections (AQI) at U.S. ports of entry.
AQI activities include inspections conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection of conveyances, cargo and passenger baggage entering the country as well as APHIS' analytical and scientific work to track pests overseas, focus inspections at ports of entry, and develop the import regulations that protect U.S. animal and plant health from foreign pests. Revenue from fees charged has been insufficient to cover all costs.
APHIS is proposing to adjust the hourly rates charged when its employees perform work associated with AQI activities on Sundays, holidays or other after-hours periods. The overtime rates would be raised commensurate with the anticipated cost of providing AQI services through 2018. The proposed rule includes clarifying regulations so that AQI inspections performed by DHS can be billed in accordance with DHS overtime regulations. This proposed rule will also be available for a 60 day comment period. This is the first proposed change to overtime rates since 2002.
The proposed AQI fee structure ensures that no one party pays more than the costs of the services they incur. Because the proposal aligns fees with actual program costs, some fees will be lowered under the proposed structure. APHIS is proposing to lower fees for international air passengers from $5 to $4 per passenger and fees for railroad cars from $7.75 to $2 per railroad car.
APHIS also proposes to raise user fees for inspections of commercial aircraft from $70.75 to $225, commercial maritime cargo vessels from $496 to $825, commercial trucks with a transponder (a sticker that contains an electronic chip that transmits information about the vehicle’s user fee payment status) from $105 to $320 a year, and commercial trucks without a transponder from $5.25 to $8 per crossing. In each of these cases, current fees do not generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs of the services.
APHIS is also proposing to add a $2 fee per sea passenger to recover costs associated with inspecting cruise vessels and passenger baggage, and to add a $375 fee to recover the costs of APHIS services for monitoring the application of or providing treatments to imported cargo to minimize pest risks.
The proposal will be available for a 60-day comment period and APHIS will consider all comments as it works to finalize the changes to the fees.