The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced this week that it will continue to accept comments on a proposed rule to adjust Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program user fees. The AQI program is jointly administered by APHIS and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep foreign agricultural pests that could affect U.S. agriculture, trade and commerce out of the United States.

The proposed fee increase is not sitting well with Canadian truckers. The Canadian Trucking Alliance says the fee increase violates the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Globe and Mail reports:

In a submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Canadian government says it agrees the fee increase “may not be consistent with U.S. international trade obligations” and “would have disproportionate and negative effects on Canadian commercial enterprises exporting to the United States.”

According to APHIS, the AQI program is a critical component in USDA’s efforts to protect U.S. agriculture and natural resources from invasive plant and animal pests and diseases.  

APHIS says:

"AQI user fees have not been updated to reflect the real cost of services in over a decade, and as a result, the program has been operating in a deficit, subsidized by taxpayers. Updating the AQI user fees will make sure inspection fees are aligned with the costs of delivering AQI services and are fairly and consistently applied."

APHIS will continue to accept comments for an additional 30 days through July 24, 2014, and will soon publish a Federal Register notice regarding this change. APHIS says this opportunity is provided in response to stakeholder requests to allow additional time for comments.

Comments may be submitted electronically to the USDA docket on http://www.regulations.gov; use docket number APHIS-2013-0021.

Read more about the comment process here.

Read the Globe and Mail story here.