December 6, 2013
Puerto Rico has become the second country in the Caribbean to partner in the Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program.
Here is the official news release.
Puerto Rico Launches Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest Partnership
December 4, 2013
CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Aerostar Airport Holdings, the Department of Agriculture of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, joined in announcing Wednesday the implementation of the international Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest outreach program, a multi-agency initiative. The announcement was made at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
Puerto Rico is the second country in the Caribbean to partner in the Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest. Jamaica was the first Caribbean partner and launched their program in 2012.
The Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program is designed to raise public awareness about the risks associated with passengers potentially introducing pests and diseases into Puerto Rico, the United States and the Caribbean Region, by carrying agricultural and food items in their luggage when they travel.
“The Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest program was conceived to extend the protection of Florida’s food supply and environment to our Caribbean neighbors and beyond,” said Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry Division Director, Richard Gaskalla. “Without the enthusiastic cooperation of Puerto Rico, this successful partnership would not be possible.”
“We are bringing information to all our constituents and partners because we want them to work closely with us,” stated Leyinska Wiscovitch, from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Thousands of pounds of agricultural produce are confiscated at ports of entry from passengers on a daily basis. Some travelers are not aware these items are prohibited, while some knowingly attempt to bring in prohibited items.
“Agriculture inspections are a crucial part of the inspection process for items entering into the country,” said Marcelino Borges, director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “A single dangerous pest could cause millions of dollars of damage to our nation’s crops.”
These undeclared items pose a serious threat to our food and natural resources as exotic invasive pests can enter through this pathway and become established, causing millions of dollars to manage or eradicate. In addition, these unwanted invaders can result in loss of export markets due to quarantines and can negatively impact natural areas.
“Our office of Agro-commercial Integrity remains vigilant that all agricultural products comply with phytosanitary requirements”, said Dr. Myrna Comas, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. ”We join this partnership to create awareness.”
If travelers know ahead of time what they can and cannot take in their baggage, they will avoid possible fines as well as avoid having the items confiscated. The focus of this creative agricultural protection outreach program in Florida and Puerto Rico is very appropriate as both are linked as high risk areas vulnerable to new pest introductions through trade and tourism.
“At Aerostar Airport Holdings we recognize our responsibility in providing the necessary support to the agencies that protect Puerto Rico and US borders from invasive plant pest and diseases. We look forward to collaborate with this program since SJU has been recognized as an important destination for this initiative,” stated Agustin Arellano, CEO for Aerostar Airport Holdings, and current operator of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
The Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest includes airing a sixty (60) second video and the placement of signs at strategic areas in major airports and cruise ship ports, along with distribution of other public education materials to the traveling public. These program elements deliver a simple message, “When you travel, declare agriculture items, Don’t Pack a Pest.”
CBP agriculture specialists are determined to safeguard American Agriculture by demonstrating careful diligence as they examine imported shipments detecting and preventing entry into the country of exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases that could harm our agricultural resources.
To view the video visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0S99cwnDqM&sns=em
December 3, 2013
Program continues to attract partners in the Caribbean
Representatives of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service are in San Juan this week for the official launch of the Don’t Pack a Pest program in Puerto Rico. The FDACS Division of Plant Industry administers the federally funded program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program enlists the cooperation of the traveling public to halt the spread of invasive pests and diseases.
Signs urging international travelers to declare agricultural items carried in baggage are now on display at airports in Puerto Rico as well as in the continental U.S. and Jamaica. Linus, a Customs and Border Protection agriculture detector dog, is the face of the campaign.
In the continental United States, the “Don’t Pack a Pest” message is delivered in a 60-second video playing at the nation’s 20 busiest international airports, as well as on billboards and on signage displayed at international airports and cruise ship terminals. The video is also playing aboard JetBlue and American Airlines flights and can be viewed online.
Jamaica joined the partnership earlier in 2013. The Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands are due to come on board in 2014.
November 27, 2013
Honey has been used across the world for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used it as form of currency, like gold, and a bit later in history Germans used it to sweeten alcoholic beverages like mead, cider and beer. American Indians used honey as a fruit preservative and a base for herbal medicine.
Today, most people use honey to sweeten food and beverages, but few view it as the powerful food, beauty aid and topical antibiotic it is. Honey naturally contains 18 amino acids, plus small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Here are five reasons to give Mother Nature’s most versatile treat this holiday season:
1. Improved sleep and relaxation: Honey can promote relaxation and help ease you to sleep. This is possible because of the natural sugar found in honey. The natural sugar helps increase insulin levels. That allows tryptophan, the compound famous for making us sleepy after eating a large Thanksgiving meal, enter the brain more easily. So remember, a spoonful of honey taken before bed can help you get a restful sleep.
2. Fewer Allergies: Taking a high-quality raw, local honey for about two months before allergy season can potentially lessen your allergies. Bees carry the pollen that aggravates seasonal allergies, and that pollen becomes a part of the honey. If you consume honey daily before allergy season, your body can grow accustomed to the pollen and immunize your body against it.
3. Heals cuts and scrapes: Honey can help prevent infection in minor cuts and scrapes. Just dab honey on the cut and cover it with a bandage of choice.
4. Moisturizes skin: Honey attracts water and can absorb and retain water in the hair and skin. At home you can enjoy these moisturizing qualities by stirring it with milk for a facial, adding it to your bath water to soften skin, or mixing it with olive oil as natural hair conditioner.
5. Honey and honey products make wonderful holiday gifts! Honey and honey products make inexpensive gifts that will please your loved ones and improve their lives.
Visit your local farmer’s markets for fresh honey as well as other honey bee byproducts such as air-purifying beeswax candles. There’s no limit to the hidden benefits of the amazing honey bee! View this link to contact your local honey bee association: http://www.floridabeekeepers.org/
Floridians have solid historic grounds to claim the first Thanksgiving took place right here on our peninsula more than a half-century before the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated in New England. We are especially pleased to assert that claim during ”VIVA 500″ anniversary year marking Ponce de Leon’s arrival in Florida. It was in 1565, more than 50 years after Ponce arrived, when Spanish settlers shared food and fellowship with the Timucuans of Florida.
Rather than the turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies, the Florida thanksgiving feast likely featured pork, deer, mullet, oysters, beans and squash. Regardless of where the first Thanksgiving occurred or what was on the menu, the time-honored tradition of giving thanks remains a celebration of the bounty of our land.
Next week, families and loved ones will gather together to continue this tradition. The cooks of the family will prepare generations-old recipes, no doubt with some modern twists that include ”Fresh from Florida” fruits, vegetables and seasfoods.
Chef Justin Timineri makes that easy! Click here for his Florida Thanksgiving recipes.
All of us here at the FDACS Division of Plant Industry wish you a happy and blessed holiday!
November 22, 2013
A summary of social media activity this week at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry
We’re in the holiday spirit here at FDACS/DPI. Witness the large cache of food our employees have donated as part of Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam’s holiday initiative. Online, we’ve been reminding folks to be make sure their holiday travels do not result in the movement of pests and diseases.
There are rules governing shipping citrus
If you have dooryard citrus you would like to share with friends and relatives out of state, remember your citrus must move through a commercial packinghouse before it can be shipped. The entire state is under quarantine for citrus canker and sweet orange scab. Portions of Hendry, Collier and Polk Counties are also quarantined for citrus black spot. The quarantines are to prevent movement of these serious plant diseases out of Florida or, in the case of those portions quarantined for citrus black spot, to other regions of the state. Check our blog entry here for details and a list of packinghouses that have agreed to process citrus fruit for homeowners.
Snails still a real threat to Miami-Dade
This week people in Miami continue to see and hear about the giant African land snail on radio, cable TV, bus benches and billboards. As you’re out and about in Miami-Dade this holiday season, watch for these snails and report suspects to our Helpline, 1-888-397-1517. Do not touch them except with gloves. The snails are known to carry a parasite that can transfer a form of meningitis to humans. Details here.
- Linus gets his own fan card
- Now those hard-working beagles have their own fan cards. If you meet Linus or one of his counterparts during your travels, ask the handler for a card — a wonderful souvenir of your trip.
- Enjoy the balmy weather and Florida seafood at the Yankeetown festival
- The department’s Fresh from Florida Blog this week featured the Yankeetown Seafood Festival, November 23-24, which sounds like a very good time to us. The festival is held on the tree-lined boulevard of Riverside Drive in Yankeetown – an “old Florida” coastal village on Florida’s Nature Coast. Yankeetown is located on the banks of the lower Withlachoochee, just three miles from the Gulf.
- What’s in Stores?
- By the way, the Fresh From Florida blog is now listing the fresh Florida produce that is available in supermarkets across the state, along with prices, every week. They’ve also posted a host of recipes using Florida agricultural products that are sure tl enhance your holiday feasts.
The Don’t Pack a Pest travelers program is important every day of the year but as international travel increases for the holidays, the agriculture detector dogs at international airports will be greeting travelers and giving their bags a thorough sniffing to detect contraband agricultural products. Agriculture Detector Dog Linus and his handler are one of the teams from Customs and Boarder Protection that seize thousands of pounds of dangerous contraband every day. Linus is also the face of the Don’t Pack a Pest campaign, which is aimed at convincing international travelers to declare agricultural items at customs, rather than waiting for Linus and his cohorts to sniff them out
November 22, 2013
Only fruit processed in a commercial packinghouse can be shipped
Some Florida yards are or soon will be teeming with fresh citrus. Sharing that bounty with friends and family out of state is not as simple as packing it up and shipping it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have quarantined the entire state of Florida for citrus canker and sweet orange scab. In addition, portions of Hendry, Collier and Polk Counties are quarantined for citrus black spot. The quarantines are to prevent movement of these serious plant diseases out of Florida or, in the case of those portions quarantined for citrus black spot, to other areas of the state.
You can, however, ship your citrus if you first have it processed in a commercial packinghouse. Scientific studies have determined that citrus fruit processed in a commercial packinghouse under an APHIS compliance agreement renders the fruit highly unlikely to spread these diseases. During the commercial packing process, fruit must be washed, brushed, disinfested, treated and waxed. It must be packing into shipping contains marked with a USDA-APHIS certificate and be free of leaves, stems or other regulated plant material. Fruit that cannot meet the waxed and treated conditions must be packed into shipping contains marked with a USDA-APHIS limited permit. Citrus trees, leaves and other citrus plant parts continue to pose a hig risk of spreading these diseases and therefore cannot be moved to other states.
Here is a list of packinghouses that have indicated willingness to pack home-grown citrus fruit under their APHIS compliance agreements. This list is subject to change. Please contact the Citrus Health Response Program hotline at 1-800-282-5153 to check for future changes.
If you have questions about shipping you citrus, call the FDACS Helpline, 1-888-397-1517.
Boyett’s Citrus Attraction, 4355 Spring Lake Highway, Brooksville, FL 3460, Phone: (352) 796-2289
May Groves, 1885 US Highway 1 North, Titusville, FL 32796, (321) 745-8575, Contact: Barry Gainer
Neukom Groves, Inc., 5409 Gall Boulevard, Zephyrhills, FL 33542-3929, (813) 782-5596, Fax 813-788-2048
Poinsettia Groves, 1481 U.S. Highway 1, Vero Beach, FL 32960, (772) 562 -3356, Contact: Jeb Hudson
Scragg Grove & Storage, 275 N Highway 1, Oak Hill, FL 32759, (386) 345-3819
The Mail Center, 3206 S Hopkins Avenue, Titusville, FL 32780, (321) 268-2255
Graham Groves, 18619 Boys Ranch Road, Altoona, FL 32702, (352) 669-2411, (50-100 boxes only)
November 21, 2013
Someday you may meet Linus
Linus is an agriculture detector dog who works at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport. He and his handler are among the teams deployed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at international airports nationwide. Their job is to find banned agricultural products in the luggage of arriving passengers, and each day they do just that. Agents seize thousands of pounds of dangerous, contraband agricultural products daily at international airports and other ports of entry, including at maritime ports.
Linus is the face of the Don’t Pack a Pest Travelers Campaign, which is aimed at convincing international travelers to declare agricultural items at customs, rather than waiting for Linus and his cohorts to sniff them out. Linus’s likeness appears on signage at airports and seaports, on billboards and in videos playing at Customs and aboard some flights.
The airport detector dogs, all beagles selected for their sensitive noses and friendly dispositions, are gaining a degree of celebrity from the campaign. In fact, CBP has created a fan card for each one of them (see Lilnus’s, above). If you encounter Linus or one of his counterparts at an international airport, you may be able to collect a card from the handler. If you do, be sure to thank the team for the work they do every day to protect us all from invasive pests and diseases.
The program is a federally funded, joint effort of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In the continental U.S., the “Don’t Pack a Pest” message is delivered via the airing of the 60-second video at the nation’s busiest international airports and signage displayed at many cruise ship terminals. The video is also playing aboard JetBlue and American Airlines flights. (You can view the video here.)
If you are traveling internationally for the holidays, the Florida Department of Agriculture, along with its partnering agencies, urge you to help protect our food supply and natural resources from harmful pests and diseases.
Don’t Pack a Pest!