LAREDO, Texas – As we approach Valentine’s Day 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s highly trained agriculture specialists stand poised to examine millions of flower stems to ensure that plant diseases and plant pests are detected and stopped from being introduced into the United States where they could cause harm.
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 and diseases into the United States. In the Laredo Field Office area, which includes eight ports of entry extending Brownsville to Del Rio, CBP agriculture specialists on an average day in Fiscal Year 2015 made 371 interceptions of quarantine plant and animal material and intercepted 38 agricultural pests.
“Our CBP agriculture specialists do an incredible job detecting nearly microscopic plant pests that do not exist in the U.S., have no known predators and which if allowed to establish themselves could inflict serious economic harm on our domestic flower industry,” said Director, Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office.
At South Texas area ports of entry, the most commonly prohibited flowers and plant materials are chrysanthemums, gladiolas, and choysia (an ornamental filler). These items are not allowed to enter the U.S. from Mexico because they are known to harbor harmful pests and diseases.
Individuals purchasing floral arrangements in Mexico for transport to the U.S. should advise their florist so prohibited plant species will not be used in the arrangement.
CBP processed approximately 976 million cut flower stems during the 2015 Valentine’s season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, compared to 801 million stems processed during the 2014 season – an increase of 21 percent. At Laredo Port of Entry’s cargo facilities, CBP processed 10.6 million stems, the fifth largest facility by volume for cut flower importations nationwide, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14. Four Laredo Field Office ports: Laredo, Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas, Progreso and Brownsville rank among the top 10 ports by volume for commercial importations of chamaedorea and ferns, greenery commonly used in floral arrangements and which are known vectors for plant pests. These ports processed a total of 3.9 million stems of chamaedorea and ferns in the 2015 Valentine’s season.
View B-roll footage of CBP cut flower inspections at a South Texas port.