The United States Nursery Certification Program (USNCP) was established as a pilot program in 2006 to help facilitate a more streamlined shipping process for U.S. nurseries exporting material to Canada. The voluntary program offered an alternative to the traditional endpoint inspection approach in that certified facilities follow a systems or integrated approach that uses various pest risk management measures throughout the plant production process. Rather than relying on an inspector to visit the site, inspect the plant material, and write a phytosanitary certificate, or “phyto,” USNCP participant nurseries can self-issue shipping documents.
The program offers greater flexibility in shipping, relieves participants of costs and delays associated with individual inspections, and the process encourages the production of consistently high quality product. Furthermore, many of the measures needed to deal with pests and disease in the nursery setting are already in place at many facilities. However, the resources required to create a detailed manual of operation specific to the facility and to maintain extensive records for scheduled audits by regulators have prevented many growers from seeking participation. In fact, only six nurseries nationally have participated.
Last year the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), in collaboration with George Washington University, completed a study of the USNCP looking at the perceptions of participating nursery staff and state and federal regulators involved in the program for more information click here
. While the participating nurseries did benefit from the program incentives listed above, they also cited the significant staffing and time costs and some unfulfilled benefits they had initially expected, such as marketing or branding opportunities.
ANLA received Farm Bill funding in 2012 to take the results of the HRI study and develop a voluntary certification program that is more approachable, flexible, and less costly than the current USNCP. The aim is to reduce the costs and staff time associated with participation and expand the program to include more nurseries, and potentially domestic interstate trade, as well. If these goals are accomplished, more nurseries would choose to participate because it makes business sense from a financial and marketing perspective, as well as more effective pest prevention and management. The effort to develop this new voluntary and more inclusive program has begun, and a working group of nursery and greenhouse industry professionals is being formed. Please watch for seminars, questionnaires, and surveys from ANLA regarding this effort.