When pest detections led China to suspend exports of logs from Virginia and South Carolina last spring, USDA began work to minimize the impact of this trade disruption on one of those states’ most important industries.
We began by negotiating with China to establish science-based standards to allow log exports to resume. Our work culminated in a visit by Chinese officials to South Carolina and Virginia. The delegation’s visit took them to facilities where state and Federal officials carry out agricultural inspections and treatments, tours of port facilities, and demonstrations of land management practices at forests, nurseries, and logging operations across Virginia and South Carolina.
In late April, I had the privilege of meeting with the delegation and getting a firsthand look at operations at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal in Portsmouth, VA. We met with representatives from the Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Virginia forestry and logging industries. Together, we saw countless examples of how our sampling, treating and safeguarding procedures work—ensuring high-quality, pest-free log exports.
After the visit, Chinese officials commended USDA, the Departments of Agriculture in Virginia and South Carolina, wood trade industries, port authorities, and fumigation companies for the work they have done to improve safeguarding measures against pinewood nematodes and other pests.
In recognition of these improvements, China has approved a six-month pilot program, beginning June 1, 2012, through December 1, 2012, for logs exported from Virginia and South Carolina. Logs exported to China during the pilot program must meet all existing export requirements, as well as certain additional requirements regarding fumigations, quarantine enhanced for pinewood nematode testing, phytosanitary certification, and ports of entry. At the end of the pilot program, if all logs exported to China have met quarantine requirements, China has agreed to formally reopen the market for exports of logs from Virginia and South Carolina.
We are optimistic that we will be able to work with our state and industry stakeholders to determine ways to meet these additional requirements.
The United States exported more than $7.7 billion in forestry products last year, supporting more than 65,000 jobs. Nearly 25 percent of those exports landed in China, the second largest market for U.S. timber. Our seaports in Virginia and South Carolina handled more than half-a-billion-dollars in U.S. forestry exports last year. We are proud of the accomplishments of our Virginia and South Carolina forestry exporters. We believe that this pilot program signals renewed Chinese confidence in our system.
Here at USDA, we know the importance of regaining the Chinese market for our Virginia and South Carolina forestry industries. We are committed to assisting our industry partners to meet the conditions of the pilot program and continuing to fight for unrestricted exports of logs from these two states.