Ag Lit Bit by Diane Merrion
Smell the Roses
This month features the holiday that some love and some loath. Whatever way you look at it, Valentine’s Day is hard to avoid. It’s also a huge economic boom often bringing in over $18 billion according to the National Retail Federation. Approximately one-third of that total represents floral sales, which falls just below candy and cards.
Customs officials at airports begin working to make sure that the flowers a loved one receives contain only flowers! Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checks the millions of flowers coming into the U.S. for insects, diseases and even hidden narcotics.
Teachers who attend our Summer Ag Institutes are fascinated with the tour we receive at O’Hare Airport where we learn so much about the importance of Agriculture Customs and Border Patrol, a topic few Americans pay attention to unless they travel abroad. The majority of fresh flowers are imported - mainly from South America - and inspected as they arrive at U.S. airports. Miami and Los Angeles typically inspect the most flowers during Valentine’s season and are the frontline in preventing harmful pests and diseases into our county.
The process of checking flowers may include shaking them over white paper to see if any pests fall out. Those are then collected and identified by the highly trained agents at the Department of Ag. While the majority of flowers entering the country are safe, even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease can cause significant damage to American agriculture. At international ports of entry, land borders and mail facilities, CBP agriculture specialists are critical to the safety of our environment.
So, when you give or receive that red rose or special bouquet, say a word of thanks to the dedicated professionals at airports across the country for inspecting our precious gifts of love.