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Export certification assures that commodities and plant material meet the phytosanitary requirements of importing states and countries. Phytosanitary measures seek to prevent the spread of harmful pests and diseases. The Montana Department of Agriculture assists exporters in meeting standards by certifying that plants and plant products are free of prohibited materials.
Some export destinations require multiple field inspections during a growing season, laboratory tests, soil analysis and completion of other testing requirements before export certifications can be completed. Exporters should contact the department before a commodity is ready for shipping to determine the phytosanitary requirements for the intended destination. Most countries require issuance of a phytosanitary certificate. Without the certificate, commodities can be detained, refused, or even destroyed at the importing destination.
There is a cost to the producer for export certification. Phytosanitary certificates are either $105, $160, or $180 based on the value of the shipment and type of commodity:
- Non-commercial shipment with a value of $1,250 or less = $105
- Commercial produce (def. ARM 4.12.1429) shipment valued at $1,250 and up = $160
- Commercial shipment of all other commodities value at $1,250 and up = $180
If you are considering exporting agricultural commodities and would like to apply for a phytosanitary certificate, visit the USDA Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking System (PCIT). For general information review the Montana phytosanitary certification overview in the tabs below, or download Phytosanitary Certification in Montana - An Overview (doc format) or (pdf format).
Phytosanitary Certification in Montana: An Overview
The term phytosanitary is derived from phyto- meaning plant and sanitary referring to the freedom from plant pests and diseases.
A phytosanitary certificate is an official document issued by a plant regulatory official in the United States to a U.S. exporter. It is addressed to the Plant Protection Organization of the importing country. It certifies that the plants or plant products are free from quarantine pests, practically free from other injurious pests, and conforms to the current phytosanitary regulations of the importing country. Each importing country determines its own phytosanitary regulations.
There are two kinds of phytosanitary certificates depending on the origin of the product: standard phytosanitary certificates and phytosanitary certificates for re-export.
To download Plant Export Certificates and Forms, visit the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.
Used to certify that domestic plants (i.e. grown in the U.S., one of its possessions, or Puerto Rico) or unprocessed plant products have been inspected according to appropriate official procedures and are considered to be free from quarantine pests specified by the importing country and to conform with the current phytosanitary requirements of the importing country including those for regulated non-quarantine pests.
PPQ Form 577
from USDA APHIS
Used to certify that foreign plants or unprocessed plant products, based on the original foreign phytosanitary certificate and/or an additional inspection, that 1) officially entered the United States, 2) are considered to conform to the current phytosanitary regulations of the importing country, and 3) have not been subjected to the risk of infestation or infection during storage in the U.S. If safeguarding cannot be verified, the certifying official must perform a phytosanitary inspection. Phytosanitary certificates for Re-Export may be issued for U.S. and foreign commodities that are blended.
Importers of foreign plants or plant products should be sure to retain a copy of: 1) Custom’s entry papers 2) an invoice bearing a PPQ release stamp, or 3) the foreign phytosanitary certificate. One of these documents is necessary to verify that the product officially entered U.S. commerce.
Exporters of foreign plants or plant products must provide the third country phytosanitary requirements before any certification can take place. If all phytosanitary requirements cannot be met from information on the incoming phytosanitary certificate and/or additional activities conducted in the U.S. (i.e. inspection, testing, or treatment) then certification is not authorized.
If an incoming foreign phytosanitary certificate is present, then PPQ Form 579 should be issued. If an incoming foreign phytosanitary certificate is not present, then PPQ Form 577 should be issued with the country of origin indicated in the Place of Origin box.
PPQ Form 579
from USDA APHIS
Each foreign country establishes its own phytosanitary requirements. Information on phytosanitary requirements is available from several sources including:
- USDA-APHIS EXCERPT computer database. The information is not to be considered legally authoritative. Occasionally, important changes in foreign regulations are not brought to the attention of USDA-APHIS. In the case of unusual or high value shipments, exporters may wish to verify regulations through their importer. Contact the Montana Department of Agriculture to access information from this database: Ian Foley at (406) 444-9454, email IFoley@mt.gov, or Larry Krum at (406) 444-5419, email LKrum@mt.gov.
- Import Permits – Sometimes, import permits are required by foreign countries. An Import Permit is special authorization granted by the PLANT PROTECTION SERVICE of a country to allow entry of prohibited plants or plant products and specifies entry requirements for restricted plants or plant products. Import Permits are issued to importers and list specific phytosanitary requirements that must be met. If an import permit is NOT IN ENGLISH, it is the responsibility of the EXPORTER to provide a notarized translation.
- Other Official Sources from the Importing Country – Official documents include import permits, special authorizations, or recent correspondence from the plant protection service of the foreign country. Unofficial Sources of Information are not valid. Information from exporters or importers cannot be considered official.
When exporting U.S. seed:
- ACO’s (Authorized Certification Official, a public officer who is authorized by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO)) may issue phytosanitary certificates when one is not required by the first country of importation.
- An exporter can elect to have "Additional Official Phytosanitary Information" included in the Additional Declaration (AD) section on the phytosanitary certificate to help facilitate re-exports. This information must be separated from AD’s required by the country of first import, if applicable.
- The exporter is responsible for identifying any "Additional Official Phytosanitary Information" beyond the country of first importation. This information must be supported by lab inspection reports and/or field inspection reports.
- This is currently based on bilateral agreements and should only be applied to certificates issued for seed destined to European Union countries
When re-exporting seed:
- All phytosanitary information on the original phytosanitary certificate should be considered official. This information can subsequently be used by an ACO to issue a Phytosanitary Certificate for Re-export to any country if all the phytosanitary import requirements of the next importing country can be met. The original certificate or a certified true copy must accompany the re-export certificate.
- If the original phytosanitary certificate does not cover all the requirements of the importing country, and the remaining requirements can be fulfilled by visual inspections or laboratory testing, the ACO may still issue a PPQ Form 579.
- If all requirements cannot be met by a combination of the original phytosanitary certificate and activities conducted in the U.S. then no certification can be done.
- Establish a USDA APHIS PCIT (Phytosanitary Certification Issuance and Tracking) account and fund a pre-pay account to cover fees, web address: https://pcit.aphis.usda.gov/pcit/, or use the contact information on this page to contact the Montana Department of Agriculture for assistance .
- Apply for phytosanitary certification services through the PCIT system or by using a form available from the MDA. Applications may be emailed, mailed or faxed. Applications must be received within 30 days of inspection.
- Arrange for official sampling and inspection (see PHYTOSANITARY INSPECTIONS tab and MDA's APPLICATION FOR GROWING SEASON FIELD INSPECTION OF PLANT COMMODITIES FOR EXPORT (pdf format)). The exporter must export plant and plant products within the time limits prescribed by the importing country. If the importing country does not prescribe a time limit, the general rule is that inspections must be conducted within 30 days of shipping.
- Provide treatment if required. The certifying official should be contacted prior to treatment to assure that the treatment is appropriate to satisfy foreign phytosanitary import regulations. The certifying official will arrange for supervision of the treatment.
- Safeguard the shipment prior to shipping.
Using Certificates as commercial documents is discouraged. Contract requirements, letter of credit, or consular visas are not phytosanitary conditions and are not certified using export certificates. Below are frequently requested statements that may NOT be entered on a phytosanitary certificate:
- Advice Number
- Aflatoxins or other mycotoxins
- Authorization Number
- Fitness for human consumption
- Freedom from animal diseases and statements about animal health concerns
- Grade and/or quality
- Genetic composition and/or disease resistance
- Intended use (such as for scientific purposes)
- Import reference number
- Import tariff item number
- Letter of credit number
- Letter of credit requirements or other unofficial requests from exporters and consignees
- Levels of radioactivity, nuclear radiation, or radionuclides associated with a commodity
- Pesticide or other chemical residues
- Purchase Contract Number
- Reference to artificially propagated or wild collected plants
- Any other requested statement that is not of a phytosanitary nature, such as economic permits, quantity or quality restrictions, or methods of packaging
No Changes Allowed
Exporters may NOT make any changes or corrections to a certificate. If a change is required it may only be made by a certifying official.
Original Phytosanitary Certificates Required
The original phytosanitary certificate must be presented to the plant quarantine officials in the foreign country. Photocopies are NOT acceptable, although customs officials may retain copies.
Certifying officials hold in strict confidence the information in these documents (PPQ Forms 577, and 579 as well as application forms) to protect buyers and exporters. The Freedom of Information Act disallows the release of trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information (Title 5, USC Section 552 and 552(b)(4)).