APHIS Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking (PCIT) Certificates for Baled Cotton
The electronic signature trial has ended and is open to other users. This successful trial involved the Memphis, TN office of USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) where in 2010 the first electronic signatures were allowed on Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance and Tracking (PCIT) certificates for baled cotton. APHIS informed the NCC that any commodity may be certified with an electronic signature. For example, the Memphis office certifies cotton, lumber and grain using the electronic signature procedure.
After login, a secure link on the PCIT home page now allows an Authorized Certifying Official (ACO) to submit a digital image of their signature that is then entered into the PCIT system. An applicant or ACO may request the ability to print original certificates at their location. This feature must be turned on in the system by either an Export Certification Specialist (ECS) or a specialist at APHIS's headquarters in Riverdale, MD. At this point, submission of a digital image is optional. The decision to allow this feature is also optional and may be based on the ACOs experience with the exporter.
The NCC has been informed that the electronic signature procedure has been well received with only a few countries refusing to accept it. At this time, there is no universal agreement and a few countries -- Korea, Brazil, European Union and Mexico -- do not accept the electronic signatures. APHIS also has documented a few localized problems at ports in China but China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) accepts the electronic signatures.
Anyone seeking additional information on electronic signatures and PCIT certificates should begin with the Plant Export PCIT page. A good source of detailed information about PCIT can be found on the web page itself. At the bottom of the login screen, lower right, there is a link for "Help/Contact us." Many helpful links are found on this page but the PCIT Quick Reference Guides provides an overview and step by step instructions for a new user to open an account, enter an application, add funds to their account, etc.
USDA APHIS PPQ Export Program Manual (XPM), Section 4-2 Special Procedurs - Commodity - Cotton, was revised by APHIS on January 21, 2009. All editions of the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) XPM published after that date include the new procedures.
Some of these procedures are significant updates of the nationwide template for establishing compliance agreements with cotton warehouses. An enhancement to the procedure is the addition of a National Cotton Compliance Agreement (NCCA) that can be completed online. Also available online is a fillable PPQ Form 572, Application for Inspection and Certification of Domestic Plants and Plant Products for Export.
Chapter 3 of the Export Program Manual contains the general procedures for completing a PPQ Form 572. The chapter includes instructions for completing PPQ 572 using PCIT or the paper equivalent. Applicants (shippers and freight forwarders) must submit completed PPQ 572s when requesting a phytosanitary certificate (PPQ Form 577).
It is the applicant's (not the warehouse's) responsibility to submit a request for an export certificate in a timely manner. However, a warehouse with an NCCA may assist the applicant by performing the necessary inspections and then completing and sending the PPQ Form 572 to the applicant (not APHIS). Warehouses only need to provide an applicant with a hard (emailed or faxed) copy of a PPQ Form 572 because -- APHIS allows PHYTO applicants to submit either PCIT-generated or non PCIT- generated PPQ Form 572s when a PHYTO is needed.