Agriculture specialists search for pests, plant disease
HOUSTON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists are examining flower imports before those shipments arrive to stores and are purchased as Valentine’s Day bouquets.
CBP agriculture specialists are looking for foreign pests and plant diseases that are not found in the U.S. and if introduced could harm American agriculture.
“CBP agriculture specialists are specially trained in scientific fields such as entomology, botany, and other related fields,” said CBP Houston Port Director Charles Perez. “They identify tiny, microscopic pests and plant diseases preventing their introduction and potential devastation to the nation’s agriculture, which is indicative of their careful attention to detail.”
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.
Since January, CBP agriculture specialists, here, have inspected about 5 shipments of flowers a week. On Feb. 11, they inspected two shipments of roses, known in the industry as cut flowers. Bunches of roses were unwrapped and shaken over a white piece of paper. This action causes tiny pests to fall from flowers and scurry across the paper. When this happens, CBP agriculture specialists collect the pests for US Department of Agriculture to identify.
After shaking the roses, their leaves are inspected for insect eggs, snails sticking on the surface and symptoms of possible diseases.
Each day, CBP prevents potentially harmful plant pests and foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S. at more than 300 ports of entry. On a given day, about 425 pests are discovered and we send more than 4440 materials for quarantine, which include plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.
During the 2015, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, CBP processed about 976 million cut flower stems, compared to 801 million stems during the 2014 season, an increase of 21 percent.
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.