Millions of pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, herbs, and other items enter the United States via commercial shipments from other countries every year.
Although these items appear to be harmless, there could be hidden threats in that baggage and in those truckloads, trainloads and containers of fresh items that could seriously threaten U.S. agriculture, our natural resources and our economy.
The CBP agriculture specialist and the CBP officer at U.S. ports of entry and international mail facilities target, detect, intercept, and thereby prevent the entry of these potential threats before they have a chance to do any harm.
Each year, CBP agriculture specialists intercept tens of thousands of “actionable pests” – those identified through scientific risk assessment and study as being dangerous to the health and safety of U.S. agricultural resources.
- They check containers and trucks for smuggled agricultural products or packaging materials that might contain invasive species that could harm our agriculture and environment.
- They examine wooden pallets that could hide the larvae of wood-boring insects poised to attack native trees or nursery stock.
- They make sure that imported fruits and vegetables are pest-free.
The CBP agriculture specialists work with specialized x-ray machines that detect organic materials. They utilize agricultural canines specifically trained to sniff out meat and plant materials in international airport passenger areas.
Unfortunately, our post 9/11 world includes a new and dangerous threat. This threat is agro-terrorism. Agro-terrorism is terrorism targeting some component of agriculture or the food supply. Examples include the intentional introduction of a plant or animal pest or disease or contamination of food materials with a toxic substance. Agricultural inspections have traditionally focused on unintentional introduction of pests or diseases – those unnoticed in someone’s luggage or hitchhiking on the walls of a container. Now we need to also focus on the deliberate introduction of these threats.
With the added danger of agro-terrorism, the role of the CBP Agriculture Specialists at our ports of entry is more crucial than ever.
Global Travel and Trade
One in five food items is now imported. We can now have fresh strawberries when it’s 20 degrees below zero. American consumers demand fresh limes and blueberries all year round. In fact, during the winter months in the United States, nearly 80 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables on our tables come from other countries.
With the ever-increasing amount of trade, new pest pathways are discovered, and the agricultural risks to the United States grow. The threat to crops and livestock is real.