Houston - U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists in Houston have been particularly busy examining flower imports for pests and diseases before consumers purchase Valentine's Day bouquets.
"Our agriculture specialists are specially trained in entomology, botany, and other scientific fields," said CBP field operations director Jeffrey O. Baldwin Sr. "Their careful attention to detail allows them to identify even microscopic pests and plant disease preventing their introduction and potential devastation to the nation's agriculture."
Insects, diseases, and arthropods found in cut flowers from foreign countries often have a wide range of host plants, which are serious threat to the U.S. agriculture crops and native ecosystems.
CBP processed about 148.5 million cut flower stems during last year's Valentine's season, which occurs between January 1 to February 14. Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America. Colombia imports 97 million stems or 65 percent, followed by Ecuador importing 33 million stems or 23 percent.
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 fiscal year 2009, CBP agriculture specialists seized more than 1.5 million prohibited plant, meat and animal byproducts and intercepted more than 166 thousand pests at the U.S. ports of entry.