February 14th is Valentine’s Day. For most people, that means cards, chocolates, and flowers – usually roses. But for many CBP’s agriculture specialists, Feb. 14th is the apex of several weeks of arduous labor.
Most roses, chrysanthemums, and other cut flowers are imported from Colombia and Ecuador. But before these blooms ever get to the wholesaler, CBP agriculture specialists carefully inspect samples of each shipment to make sure they aren’t harboring exotic pests or diseases that might hurt U.S. agriculture.
CBP agriculture specialists are specially trained and many have advanced degrees in scientific fields ranging from botany and entomology to biology and plant pathology. It’s a good thing they are detail-oriented, because cut flowers are big business – worth about $15 billion annually.
The Miami airport is the nation’s major hub for the floral industry, receiving 91 percent of the cut flowers sold in the United States last year. In fact, during the peak period for flower imports last year – Jan. 25 through Feb. 14 – Miami received more than 564 million stems, and CBP agriculture specialists intercepted more than 1,400 plant pests.
That might not seem like very many, but even one single exotic pest can cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage if it spreads and reproduces without being kept in check by natural predators. In fact, invasive species have caused $138 billion in annual economic and environmental losses in the United States, including yield and quality losses for America’s agriculture industry.
So before you “say it with flowers” – as one company’s slogan goes – remember the CBP agriculture specialists who work tirelessly to ensure that those flowers are healthy and free of diseases and pests.