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Importing Soil into the United States

Importing Soil Into the United States
Importing soil into the U.S. requires a lot of documentation which can confuse even veteran shippers. Before the soil can be used to grow veggies or plants, our experts answer your top questions and explain the required forms.
June 26, 2020
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Last Modified: January 16, 2024

Importing soil into the United States is a highly regulated process that requires strict adherence to federal guidelines. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) goes as far as considering this a high risk activity. Before moving forward with importing soil into the U.S., it’s essential to understand how to be in compliance with all of the required regulations.

In order to import soil into the United States, you’ll need authorization from APHIS. To receive this authorization, completion of PPQ Form 525-A is required. Depending on the intended use of the soil, APHIS may also need to inspect the facility where the soil will be processed.

With such high stakes in place, many businesses choose to work with a Licensed Customs Broker when importing soil into the U.S. You can schedule an import consulting session with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers to get all of the answers and information you need for your soil import.

Regulations for Importing Soil into the U.S. 

Soil is heavily regulated by the United States for a variety of environmental reasons. Most importantly soil can contain various diseases that threaten the surrounding ecosystems. From invasive species to live pests, serious damage can be done to the environment. While screening can be done, this is not always possible on a large scale. Therefore the United States instead heavily regulates and in most cases, prohibits the importation of soil from foreign countries. 

The USDA, through APHIS, controls the influx of soil into the U.S. in a variety of different ways. First, a clear description of the intended purpose of the imported soil must be provided on PPQ Form 525-A. This is mandatory for shipments over 3lbs. Packages less than 3 lbs. can undergo heat sterilization under the supervision of APHIS at the port of arrival. Second, most imported soil is expected to be destroyed after its intended use. When applying for the permit, you need to provide the method that will be used to dispose of the soil. If you’re not planning to dispose of the soil, an explanation needs to be given.

For large shipments, and even for many small shipments, the receiving facility will need to undergo an inspection by APHIS. This is done to ensure that appropriate equipment and procedures are on-site. 

Failing to comply with any of these requirements can have significant consequences. Most frequently, goods can be held at the border or seized permanently if the proper protocols haven’t been followed. In other cases, businesses can receive fines or jail time if the violations are more egregious. Regardless, there is a lot that can go wrong when importing soil into the U.S. To avoid these painful penalties, work with the experts at USA Customs Clearance. We’ll ensure that your soil shipment is in compliance with all necessary regulations.

What about Soil Samples? 

Soil Samples follow the same guidelines as importing large amounts of soil; some types are prohibited, but you can apply for a permit via the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Permit Unit to get permission. As long as the soil samples meet the guidelines referenced above from APHIS, it is likely your permit will be granted. 

Challenges When Importing and Shipping Soil

Challenges When Importing and Shipping Soil

Once approved for a permit, there are specific guidelines you must follow when importing and moving soil into the United States. Failure to comply with these guidelines can result in fines or further legal ramifications. 

Firstly, soil must be carefully housed in leak-proof containers that are of high-quality, durable and can withstand any damage done in shipping. Once inside the United States, the soil must be treated carefully before being disposed of or being used for various purposes. You may use one of two treatments that have been authorized by the U.S. Government: 

  1. Heat Treatment: treating the soil at a heat of 250 degrees fahrenheit for at least two hours; 
  2. Steam Heat Treatment: treat the soil with steam heat for at least 30 minutes with 15” pressure. 

While these are the two Government-approved methods of heat treatments, others may be permissible if you check with the proper offices first. These methods include acid washing, boiling, destructive analysis, and so on. 

After soil has been treated, you may be allowed to keep the soil for an indefinite amount of time. If this is your objective, it needs to be stated when applying for the import permit. When filling out your permit application, be sure to include detailed information as to what you wish to do with the soil after treatment (should you not wish to destroy it). 

If you’re at both importing and exporting soil, it’s wise to work with an import and export consulting. To learn more, check out our article on import export consulting services.

Do You Need a Customs Bond to Import Soil into the United States?

A customs bond is used to guarantee that an importer meets the specific criteria of Customs demands and all necessary duties, taxes, and fees are paid. Many types of shipments require a customs bond when importing goods into the United States. When an import shipment contains over $2,500 worth of goods intended for commercial use, a customs bond is required. 

When a shipment contains goods that are subject to regulations by a partner government agency, a customs bond must also be in place. Since soil is regulated by the USDA & APHIS, a customs bond is required when importing soil. 

There are two options for customs bonds for importing:

  1. Single Entry Bond– As its name implies, this customs bond covers a single shipment into the U.S. If you’re absolutely certain that you won’t have any other imports within 12 months, a single entry bond is the best choice.
  2. Continuous Customs Bond- Unlike the single entry bond, a continuous bond will cover all of an importer’s shipments for 1 year after the bond’s issuance date. This is the best option for importers that expect to have more than one shipment within a calendar year. 

If there’s any possibility that you’ll have multiple shipments coming in, it’s best to purchase a continuous customs bond. USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International offers continuous bonds for only $235*. Our application process is simple and hassle-free with same day approval for your bond being possible in most cases. 

Need Help Importing Soil?

If you need help importing soil into the U.S., look no further than USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International. We have extensive knowledge and experience in navigating tricky government regulations. Our team of Licensed experts will work directly with you to ensure that your soil arrives safely and without issue. 

In addition to clearing your soil at the border, we can also assist you with other critical supply chain and logistics needs. From transportation to warehousing to order fulfillment and more, our service to you is comprehensive. You’ll be able to manage all of your supply chain needs in one place.

To connect with our team, give us a call at (855) 912-0406 or schedule your customs consulting session online today. 

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One comment on “Importing Soil into the United States”

  1. Hi I want information to import humic and filmic acid from Mexico to the us

    thanks for your attention.

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