updated 9/1/2006 7:35:40 PM ET 2006-09-01T23:35:40

A U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to levy new fees on air travelers and commercial shipments from Canada is a nonsensical, self-serving measure that could clog the border and discourage air travel, the Canadian airline and trucking industries warned Friday.

The U.S. government said it intends to tighten agricultural inspections at the Canada-U.S. border in an effort to guard against the perceived threat of pests, disease and even bioterrorism.

As a result, commercial products and air travelers crossing the border will be subject to “user fees” as of Nov. 24.

“It’s unnecessary and I think it has more to do with revenue generation than anything else,” said Fred Gaspar, spokesman for the Air Transport Association of Canada.

“This is ostensibly to pay for an agricultural inspection program, but it’s going to be universally applicable to every passenger and every airline.”

Commercial aircraft arriving in the U.S. from Canada will have to pay $70.25, trucks $5.25 per crossing or $105 for the year, loaded rail cars $7.50 and commercial vessels $488. Many of the fees will increase slightly in the next fiscal year.

Graham Cooper, senior vice president of the Canadian Trucking Association, said he too was concerned about rules he considers far too broad.

“It would appear that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is intending to apply a user fee on all trucks that cross the border irrespective of whether they are carrying fruits and vegetables or machine parts,” Cooper said.

All trucks that cross the border from Canada are required to give U.S. customs advance notice of what they are carrying.

“If a truck is carrying a load of machine parts, hopefully we don’t find the U.S. Department of Agriculture opening it up, looking for tomatoes,” Cooper said.

Melissa O’Dell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s animal and plant health inspection service noted that the surcharges have been in place since the early 1990s, and Canada has been exempt until now.

“With increased trade, we have decided to re-evaluate our inspection process along the Canada-U.S. border,” O’Dell said.

During three recent inspection blitzes, inspectors discovered many fruits and vegetables from third countries coming into the U.S. from Canada despite labels that indicated they had originated in Canada.

The department looked at a number of alternatives to implementing blanket fees. They considered excluding air passengers from the fees, but came to the conclusion that air passengers were also likely to try to bring tropical and exotic fruits and vegetables into the U.S.

They also concluded that limiting the fees to commercial vehicles carrying agricultural products wouldn’t be a viable option because packing material and the vehicles themselves could be “potential pest pathways.”

Both the airline and trucking representatives say they are voicing their concerns to the government about the detrimental effects they foresee to their respective industries and slowdowns at the border.

Conrad Bellehumeur, spokesman for Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl, said it’s too early to determine what the overall impact will be, however, they have received guarantees from their American counterparts that border traffic will not be impeded.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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