Starting October 1, 2022, importers of earthworms will be required to obtain a Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) 526 Permit from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS).
The policy was originally set to come into effect on July 1, but APHIS later released an update stating that the policy would not go into effect until October 1.
The new policy helps prevent the spread of harmful plant and animal pathogens that could be transported inside the earthworms, which could put US animals and plants at risk. Certain types of earthworm are also considered to be plant pests by APHIS because they disrupt the soil and could harm plant growth and diversity.
The policy applies to all earthworm species, as well as powdered, frozen or freeze-dried earthworms, their castings, and related products.
What are the PPQ 526 permit requirements?
Below are some of the strict conditions that are required for the PPQ 526 permit, which APHIS has outlined on its website:
- Earthworms must be reared on a diet free of soil or bedding containing pathogens. The diet may contain paper pulp, sawdust, or pasteurized vegetables (vegetables that have been held at a temperature of 180°F (83⁰C) for a minimum of 30 minutes).
- At least 15 days before shipment, all imported earthworms must be placed on a cleansing diet that is free of any materials that may contain plant or animal pathogens.
- At no time during the rearing or packaging process are earthworms to be fed soil, uncooked or partially cooked vegetables.
- At all times during the rearing operation, worms must be kept separated from the ground by a heavy layer of plastic, fiberglass, metal, or other material that is not biodegradable.
- PPQ officers may inspect shipments at any time to confirm the origin of the worms, and their genus and species using morphological and/or molecular testing.
- Officers may also confirm earthworms’ gut contents, check that no soil is present in the shipping containers, and test for pathogens associated with or transported by earthworms.
To stay informed on import updates, stay connected with a customs broker.