Friday, February 13, 2009

CBP Agriculture Specialists Inspect Flowers to Assure Pest-Free Valentine's Day

Washington - With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at U.S. ports of entry are busy making sure that flower imports used in Valentine’s Day bouquets are free from insects and diseases that could harm the agricultural and floral industries of the United States.

“Although these items appear to be harmless, there could be hidden threats in those shipments of fresh flowers that could seriously threaten U.S. agriculture, our natural resources and our economy,” said Thomas Winkowski, assistant commissioner for the CBP’s office of field operations. “CBP’s highly trained agriculture specialists ensure that plant diseases and even microscopic plant pests are detected and prevented 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. On a typical day in fiscal year 2008, the 2,277 agriculture specialists employed by CBP seized 4,125 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 435 agricultural pests at ports of entry.

During 2008, CBP processed approximately 500 million cut flower stems during the Valentine’s Day season.

* The top 10 ports of entry that processed shipments of cut flower imports for last years Valentine’s Day are Miami; Laredo, Texas; New York; Otay Mesa, Calif.; Los Angeles; Newark; Chicago; Wilmington, Del.; Boston; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
* Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia.
* The top three cut flower imports are mixed bouquets, dianthus and chrysanthemum.
* The most common type of insect found in cut flower imports is the Lepidoptera larva (moth).

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.


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