This year, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will start issuing electronic health and transit certificates for dairy products exported to the European Union (EU) via the electronic trade document exchange system (eTDE).

A content management system created to support the domestic and international trade of U.S. agricultural products, eTDE makes official certificates available online to health officials in foreign ports. The system was built with the help of funds from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

There are multiple steps that exporters must follow before using this system so it is important to register as soon as possible. You can find information on how to register and access this system at http://www.ams.usda.gov/dygradingetde. AMS’ Dairy Grading Program will continue issuing paper health certificates for now. This will give time for industry users to register in a secure environment and the EU to gain confidence in this process. Eventually all exporters will need to use the eTDE system.

Once deployed, AMS’ use of eTDE will result in faster customer service, especially in delivery of export certificates. While our official processing time for issuance of export certificates is five business days, our average response time is reduced to approximately two business days through the use of online applications.

Our new electronic Document Creation System (eDocs) develops an electronic certificate and sends it to eTDE to be viewed by domestic users and port authorities from trading markets (i.e. EU countries). The system reduces redundancies and improves efficiency by including processes such as allowing exporters to create custom templates and re-use data from old certificates. This eliminates the need to retype the data with each new certificate request, resulting in cost and time savings for the exporter.

Our long term goal is to completely automate the certification process, removing the need for U.S. officials to type health certificates and courier them overseas. We anticipate continuous improvements in our response time once the entire process is automated. AMS expects to transition to the eDocs application system as early as the second quarter of 2013.

In 2012, AMS Dairy Programs issued export certificates to more than 100 countries. The certificates supported the export of nearly 3.3 billion pounds of dairy products, valued at more than $4.1 billion. Annually, AMS experiences double digit growth in requests for export certificates. Once eDocs is implemented for the EU, we will look to expand this technology to other importing countries starting with China.

We encourage all dairy exporters to visit our eTDE page to register to use the system.