CBP agriculture specialists inspect cut flowers in Miami | Photo by Jerry Glaser
WASHINGTON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists are working round the clock to ensure that America’s moms enjoy a pest-free Mother’s Day on May 9.
“No one wants to give mom a bouquet teeming with insects or diseases that can wreak havoc on the environment,” said Kevin C. Harriger, Executive Director of CBP’s Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison. “CBP agriculture specialists are on the frontline ensuring that cut flowers, hanging baskets, and other plant imports are pest-free and presentation ready for Mother’s Day.”
Mother’s Day is the busiest time of year for flower imports, which can carry pests and diseases that threaten U.S. agriculture and the environment.
This year, CBP agriculture specialists have inspected more than one billion cut flower stems bound for stores and households throughout the United States. As a result of those inspections, CBP interdicted 1,977 pests.
CBP agriculture specialists physically inspect all flowers and plant materials before they enter the United States to ensure that they are free of pests and diseases. The inspections include shaking the flowers to dislodge insects and the use of magnifying glasses to locate pests and diseases.
CBP sends interdicted pests and diseases to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which uses digital imagery and other technology to confirm their identity.
According to CBP data, solidago (goldenrods), alstroemeria (Peruvian lily), and chrysanthemum (florist’s daisy) are the flower species most often interdicted for carrying pests.
Among other critters, cut flower imports may transport Noctuidae and Aphididae, colloquially known as the owlet moth and aphids, which can cause irreparable damage to the environment if allowed into the country. Infested shipments must be treated, re-exported or destroyed, depending on the severity of the infestation.
Cut flowers are normally imported in bulk, mostly from countries in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The top exporting countries are Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Guatemala. More than 95 percent of U.S.-bound cut flower imports are processed in Miami, New York, and Otay Mesa, California.
The most common flower types are roses, mixed bouquets, and pom pom chrysanthemums.
In addition to cut flowers, CBP processes a large volume of flowering plants during the Mother’s Day season. Many of these plants are imported from greenhouses in Canada and processed at ports of entry including Alexandria Bay, Buffalo, and Champlain, New York.
During a typical day last year, CBP’s agriculture specialists seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry.