Mother’s Day Surge No Match for CBP Agriculture Specialists
Protecting America against Invasive Pests and Diseases is a 365 Day Effort
The true frontline of America’s defense against invasive insects and harmful diseases starts with more than 2,460 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at various ports of entries and airports who meticulously check imported material for plant pests and exotic animal diseases not native to the United States.
“CBP agriculture specialists play a critical role in the Department of Homeland Security,” said Miami International Airport Assistant Port Director, Agriculture Operations, Marisol Perez. “They are highly trained and specialized professionals who work tirelessly and are constantly vigilant in targeting, detecting, and intercepting fruit and vegetable imports that may contain hidden threats, particularly pests and diseases, which can have devastating effects on both consumer safety and the economy.”
Major holidays, like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, that rank floral arrangements as the number one gift, yield substantial shipments of flowers from major importers Colombia and Ecuador. Still there is no slowing of imported goods before, during, and after the holidays or special events.
“Even when certain imports decrease, others increase. These shipments are massive in volume and are handled primarily by CBP agriculture specialists, who are responsible for safeguarding American agriculture while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.”
So why must you declare the one apple you got on the plane from Frankfurt, Germany to Atlanta for the drive home?
“The potential impact of a pest coming into the United States can be catastrophic,” Perez said. “For example, invasive species could potentially cause $138 billion annually in economic and environmental losses in the United States, including yield and quality losses for America's agriculture industry.”
According to Perez, agriculture brings in more than $1 trillion annually, and is the nation’s largest industry and employment sector. Agriculture specialists act as a human barrier of defense against some of the most invasive pests and prohibited matter attempting to enter our country—intentionally and unintentionally.
Last fiscal year, agriculture specialists conducted more than 1.7 million interceptions of prohibited plant materials, meat and animal byproducts at ports of entry. When broken down, that equates to nearly 4,660 interceptions of dangerous materials and byproducts each day throughout the United States. In addition, CBP agriculture specialists stopped nearly 118,000 potentially dangerous pests from entering our country by way of plants, food products, and other imported items.
With a 24/7 mission and global pandemic occurring, agriculture specialists working on the frontline continue operating as usual while donning the necessary personal protective equipment and regularly cleaning and disinfecting vehicles and facilities to help keep employees safe and healthy.
Perez reiterated, “This national emergency has not affected our mission. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state, and local agencies to support the whole-of-government effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our employees and everyone safe.”
“CBP remains ever vigilant to carry out our mission,” Perez stated. “We are well prepared to respond to the array of present dangers, including agriculture related risks, and ever-emerging threats to our Homeland, including communicable diseases that threaten the safety and security of the American people.”