WASHINGTON – Changes are being proposed to regulations governing requests to conduct animal health status evaluations by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. These evaluations are a response to requests from trading partners in an effort to determine eligibility for importing animals and animal products into the US, APHIS said.

According to the agency, the proposed changes will clarify information requested by foreign nations that will offer a more expeditious evaluation process. Such actions support government initiatives to make regulations clearer and easier to understand.

Nations requesting evaluation must also submit information that supports their request, under the current process. Eleven factors must be responded to, and some overlap each other. When the information provided is incomplete or unclear, the actual evaluation process is delayed.

As a result, USDA is proposing to break down the information into eight factors to eliminate the overlap and make the request easier to understand and respond to accurately. The type of information needed will not change substantively from what is currently required, the agency claims.

In addition, USDA is also proposing to create separate criteria to establish an area is historically free of a specific animal disease. Such criteria follow the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations. If countries are seeking to be evaluated as historically free of the specific disease, they would support their request with information about six factors.

USDA said it will also provide more detailed assistance for completing the evaluation request process through a guidance document available on the APHIS website. This new guidance will highlight the specific information needed under each factor and assist foreign governments by providing the necessary data for an expeditious review. The notice was published in the Dec. 28 Federal Register.