Blaine, Wash. - Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the Blaine area ports of entry are busy making sure that imported flowers used in Valentine's Day bouquets are free from insects, pests and diseases that could harm the agricultural and floral industries of the United States.
"Although Valentine's Day flower bouquets appear to be harmless, they can harbor hidden threats that could seriously damage U.S. agriculture and our natural resources," said Area Port Director Greg Alvarez. "CBP's highly trained agriculture specialists ensure that microscopic plant pests are detected and prevented from being introduced into United States."
In 2009 the Blaine CBP agriculture specialists processed approximately 220,500 cut flowers consisting of Anthuriums, lillies, roses, Alstroemeria and dahlias of Canadian, Colombian and Ecuadorian origin. One example of their work was the recent interception of Thrips flavus on flowers destined for the Northwest Dahlia show in Bellingham, Wash.
Thrips flavus are tiny insects that suck sap from leaves and flowers and are not native to the United States. If they became widely distributed domestically, they could cause considerable damage and losses to greenhouse grown flowers including carnations, chrysanthemums and hibiscus. In this case, the pest risk was mitigated by fumigation of the flowers prior to release.
At international ports of entry, land borders and mail facilities, CBP agriculture specialists are the front line in the fight against the introduction of harmful insects, pests and diseases into the United States.
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.