CHICAGO—This is the time of year that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chicago agriculture specialists want to make sure that only love is in the air, not foreign pests and diseases, as they work hard to examine the millions of fresh flowers imported for local Valentine's Day bouquets. Chicago ranks among the top ten locations in the country for receiving imported cut flowers and CBP has recently stepped up agricultural inspections at O'Hare International Airport to detect plant pests and plant diseases from being introduced into the U.S. where they could cause harm to the U.S. flower industry, agriculture and the national economy.
"We at CBP want everyone to have a Happy Valentine's Day which is why we stepped up our inspections of cut flowers to meet the seasonal demand here in Chicago. Last year, we examined more than 82 air shipments containing 3.2 million fresh cut flowers," said David Murphy, Chicago CBP director of Field Operations. "Right now our agriculture specialists are conducting ten inspections each day to make sure these lovely imports bring joy and happiness and not an unintended pest or disease."
In Chicago, CBP agriculture specialists see a variety of flower shipments from around the world with some single shipments containing 50 types of different flowers including the five most common which are Tulips, Daffodils, Orchids, Roses and Delphinium.
The most common pest found in Chicago on cut flowers is thrips. These tiny arthropods are just 2mm long, but infestations can ruin crops and cause other countries to refuse our agriculture products. When a thrips species is found on imports, quarantine action is ordered by CBP and the infested import is fumigated, destroyed or re-exported. Other pests found on imported cut flowers include moth caterpillars, snails, and plant eating fly maggots.
Last year, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, 2011, CBP agriculture specialists nationwide prevented the entry of 3,400 plant pests hitchhiking on the approximately 802.5 million imported cut flowers. This year, more than 50 cut flower pests have been intercepted by agriculture specialists in Chicago thus far.
For more information, photographs, facts and figures about CBP inspection of imported cut flowers, please visit the CBP Web site.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.