First User Fee Changes in Ten Years
The U.S Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) plans to announce the addition of $154 million in user fees for Agricultural Quarantine Inspections. For this current FY (2014) APHIS will collect a total $594 million to support vital activities. APHIS plans to increase the user fees to a total $748 million beginning in FY 2016.
Specifically, through agricultural inspections at our nation’s borders and seaports, the Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Border Protection (CBP) is the first line of defense for the U.S. against invasive pests and diseases harmful to agriculture and the environment. CBP works jointly with APHIS to carry out Agricultural Quarantine Inspections (AQI).
Due to increased international trade and travel early detection of pests and disease is important to prevent significant economic and environmental damage throughout the U.S. Once a pest becomes established or spreads significantly, the costs to eradicate, suppress or manage it can be in the millions of dollars – not to mention the economic costs in lost crops and damage to natural ecosystems. It is estimated that the national cost to taxpayers from invasive species was close to $41 billion annually in lost production, prevention and control expenses.
APHIS Can Increase User Fees
APHIS has statutory authority (7 CFR Part 354) to charge user fees for AQI services provided to all international passengers arriving in the customs territory of the United States, and for all commercial vessels, trucks, aircraft, and railroad cars arriving in the customs territory of the United States. These fees were established in 1991. APHIS is required to achieve full cost recovery for the program through setting rates for user fees.
In March of last year, the Government Accountability Office released a report (http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/652555.pdf) of an investigation on collection of user fees and found more than a $325 million gap between fee revenues and total program costs in FY 2011. This is only 38 percent of AQI program costs. In FY 2011, CBP incurred over 80 percent of total program costs, but received only 60 percent of collections. APHIS incurred 19 percent of costs, but retained 36 percent of collections. CBP bridges this gap between AQI costs and it share of revenues with its annual appropriation. The cost of the program in 2011 was $861 million.
For the past 18 months, both APHIS and CBP have been working with industry on proposed new user fees. APHIS hired a contractor to conduct a comprehensive fee review to determine the full cost of AQI services and to identify changes to the fee structure and recommend new fees.
The Proposed Rule will officially be available on Friday, April 25. A comment period of 60-days will ensue after publication.
Some of the industries impacted include:
- International air passengers, from $5.00 to $4.00 per passenger
- Railroad cars, from $7.75 to $2.00.
- Commercial aircraft, from $70.75 to $225.00
- Commercial maritime cargo vessels, from $496.00 to $825.00
- Commercial trucks (transponder), from $105.00 to $320.00
- Commercial trucks (w/o transponder) from $5.25 to $4.00 per crossing
- $2.00 per cruise ship passenger
- $375.00 for monitoring application or providing treatments to imported cargo.
APHIS noted the cost increases are a trend that will continue in the future. This is the first increase in AQI user fees in ten years.