EL PASO, TEXAS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operation agriculture specialists recently completed an enforcement operation targeting prohibited agriculture items. More than 1,000 pieces of prohibited food were seized and over 100 pests were discovered during the blitz.
“Protecting our nation’s food supply is an important part of the CBP mission,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Beverly Good. “CBP agriculture specialists are highly trained and have the knowledge to recognize the presence of pests or disease on agricultural commodities as well as to identify prohibited products.”
Operation “Holiday Rush” ran for the first 11 days of January. The operation’s focus was on vehicle and bus passengers returning to the U.S. after extensive visits in Mexico for the holiday season. It is common for these travelers to return to the U.S. with large amounts of food and agriculture items.
During the operation 2,490 vehicles and 15,806 bus passengers were inspected which resulted in 18 civil penalties issued for failure to declare prohibited agriculture items, totaling $3,650 in fines. The operation uncovered 1,510 prohibited agriculture items. Those prohibited items were seized and destroyed after examination for any pests or disease. CBP agriculture specialists also recorded 136 pest interceptions. The pest interceptions were turned over to USDA for final identification. Of the 136 pests intercepted, 82 were plant pathogens and 54 were insects.
An example of an enforcement action occurred January 11 at the Santa Teresa port of entry when a pick-up truck returning to California arrived for inspection. The traveler had spent an extended period in Mexico. The driver gave a positive declaration for sugar cane but nothing else. Upon inspection of the truck bed, 22 pounds of fresh sweet limes were found hidden under luggage. An examination uncovered fruit fly larvae and scale insects. A $300 civil penalty was issued for failure to declare. The potential introduction of fruit flies to an agriculturally rich state like California could have been devastating.
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.