Over the last three years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has worked with the peanut and dairy industries to create a government-hosted electronic trade document repository. The eTrade Document Exchange (eTDE) System, funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service through the Market Access Program, makes electronic trade documents, including official certificates, available securely through the Internet to facilitate the domestic and international movement of U.S. agricultural products.
This system provides users with the ability to access commodity-related trade documents as PDF files that can be used to verify hard copy documents or to eliminate the use of hard copy documents entirely. It allows authorized product owners, buyers, carriers, brokers, and government port agents access to critical information around the clock and around the world.
USDA collaborates with trade associations to provide this information as an export service to the supply chain. The certificates available in the repository are provided by a variety of document providers. Some certificates are provided by USDA, some by programs under department certification, and some from commercial sources that operate independently. USDA validates the identity of each document provider and has security controls in place to ensure that certificate data obtained from providers remains unaltered once it is posted to the site.
Most recently, China wanted meat and poultry exporters to use a more secure means of providing electronic trade documents to serve as advance notice of incoming shipments. China’s current agreement with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) uses an e-mail box for receiving documentation, but this system has no auditing or security features to deter the submission of counterfeit certificates. To address this issue, China asked all U.S. exporters to use the eTDE system to submit their trade documentation.
The eTDE system is preferred because it provides a secure, authenticated process for document submission and provides secure access to these certificates to officials through a web-based document portal. The portal allows officials to search for certificates by certificate number, port of entry and date of arrival. The system provides a complete record of the party that submitted the record and who has viewed the record.
The eTDE system was designed by AMS Information Technology Service staff in concert with industry and industry-contracted developers. This is a prime example of the work AMS does everyday to facilitate the efficient, fair marketing of U.S. agricultural products.