Grocery limitations added to NEXUS

Published on Thu, Jul 18, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Grocery limitations added to NEXUS

By Meg Olson

As membership numbers in the NEXUS program creep up, so does the number of rules for the new program. The participant’s guide distributed to new participants outlined a simple system that, with very few exceptions, allowed in the NEXUS lanes what was allowed in regular lanes. Those being signed up to the system now are getting an additional sheet of paper outlining additional restrictions.

“We weren’t really included when that first guide came out and that’s unfortunate,” said United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Blaine area port director Scott Bishop.

While U.S. Customs will allow travelers in the NEXUS lane to bring in permitted goods and make an oral declaration to the inspector, Bishop said his agency will not. “That’s taking away from the spirit of the lane,” Bishop said. “It’s for people who don’t need to make a declaration.”

Based on that position USDA will not allow fruits, vegetables, any plants or plant parts, which includes whole spices, meat, eggs, soil and animals except for cats and dogs, in the NEXUS lanes. An announcement from the agency warns those who break the rules may lose their NEXUS membership and face fines up to $250.

Even though many of the items not allowed in the NEXUS lane are fine in the regular lanes, Bishop said they needed to be inspected, which was not appropriate in the commuter lane.

Cherise Miles, public affairs officer for U.S. Customs, said her agency did not feel it was inappropriate to allow travelers to make a declaration for allowed personal goods in the commuter lane, and they would continue to allow it. “If you declare what you have and it’s within your exemption, you’re fine. If it’s not and its dutiable, you can be referred inside to secondary,” she said. “Most likely if they make a declaration that requires anything further they’ll be sent inside and it won’t slow down the lane.” She added a goal of the program was to make it as useable as possible for people who regularly cross the border. There are some restrictions, however; those traveling with restricted weapons, explosives, commercial goods and over $10,000 need to use a regular lane.

Canada Customs has a somewhat more complicated system for declaring goods. Canadian users must fill out a traveler declaration card entering Canada in the NEXUS lane and U.S. residents must use regular lanes if they are bringing in more than their personal entitlement.

There are prohibited items, from firearms to certain fruits, and it’s up to travelers to make sure they don’t have any or they’ll lose their NEXUS privileges. “When in doubt use the regular lane,” said Canada Customs representative Faith Saint John.

Bishop said that the rules for agricultural products needed to be tighter because of the variety of agricultural restrictions, some of which change with the seasons. “We probably had the hardest time with PACE because we deal with such a long list,” he said. “Really it hasn’t changed that much. What’s changed now is that all the agencies are less tolerant and violators won’t get a second chance.”

The one area where USDA will be lenient is with commuters and their lunches, Bishop said, as long as they stay between the lines. “We’re talking a reasonable lunch, not a bag of oranges,” he said. “We’re trying to be as flexible as possible with true commuters. Acceptable items to travel in NEXUS include a sandwich, salads (but not fruit salads) and fully cooked, prepared foods. Canned goods, fish and baked goods are also allowed in the lane, but beans and rice are plant parts, and are not.

“I strongly recommend anyone with questions give us a call,” Bishop said. Bottom line is that it’s up to the traveler to make sure what he’s transporting is allowed in the commuter lane before they use it, and up to the inspector to determine if they’re right. An apple core under the seat could cost a NEXUS participant their membership. ‘“That’s taking things to a bit of an extreme but every officer’s different,” Bishop said. “It’s best not to have it.”.
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