The Alphabet Soup of Importation

As an importer, there are numerous agencies and system of which you must be aware. In fact, there is a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms that you will need to know and understand in order to ensure your importation practices are always legally compliant.

Below is just a sampling of some of the most important acronyms which every importer needs to know:


CBP stands for “United States Customs and Border Protection.” CBP operates under the US Department of Homeland Security, and its primary mission is to enforce all US regulations with regard to international trade, immigration, customs, etc. As you can imagine, you will likely have to interact with this entity quite a bit as an importer since they are ultimately in charge of whether or not the product can be brought into the United States.

CBP is comprised of numerous types of law enforcement officers, many of which specialize in things like agriculture and importation. You will find CBP officers at every port of entry in the United States, and they are also in charge of the Container Security Initiative in which CBP will search containers abroad prior to their being shipped to the US.


The United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA for short, is an agency serving under the US Department of HEalth and Human Services. The primary purpose of the FDA, amongst other duties, is to protect public health by regulating food, drugs, and cosmetic products in the US. If you are interested in importing any products which fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction, particularly food, the FDA will be in charge of ensuring that the products you are bring in are safe, sanitary, and appropriately labeled according to US regulations.

Depending on the origin of the imported products, you may or may not be required to undergo FDA inspections of your imports. For example, if the product originates at a foreign facility which is regulated and approved by the FDA, you will only have to inform the FDA when a shipment is arriving from that facility.


USDA stands for the United States Department of Agriculture. This executive agency has overarching authority in the US when it comes to enforcing public policy on agriculture, food, forestry, and more. With regard to imports, the agriculture and food are the key elements of the USDA’s jurisdiction. As such, you will also have to take steps to comply with USDA requirements when importing any agricultural or food products into the United States.


APHIS—the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—operates under the authority of the USDA and is in charge of protecting US plants and animals from invasive species. Your products may be required to undergo APHIS inspections to ensure that they do not pose a threat to these elements of the US ecosystem. APHIS is constantly on the lookout for invasive or non-native plant and animal life which could pose a threat.


The Automated Commercial Environment is a new system created by CBP to help streamline the required reporting process of imports and exports. By the end of 2016, CBP plans to have ACE be the only window through which importers and exporters may report their products to the government.

It can be incredibly difficult as an importer to keep up with all of your obligations with the various agencies and systems listed above, but Howard S. Reeder, Inc can help! Give us a call today and let us help ensure that your importation process is handled legally, efficiently, and securely.

Howard S Reeder Inc