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Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Expands Successful “Don’t Pack a Pest” Campaign to the Dominican Republic

April 1, 2014

Research Shows Awareness of Campaign Up

More Than 60 Percent among Travelers in Miami

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Travelers coming to Florida from the Dominican Republic were advised “Don’t Pack a Pest” during a press conference last week marking the expansion of this successful awareness campaign. “Don’t Pack a Pest” helps safeguard Florida’s agriculture industry from invasive pests.

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Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, joins (L-R) Luis Ramon Rodriguez, Minister of Agriculture in the Dominican Republic, William Weissman, Charge d’Affairs with the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, and Jennifer Smythe, Associate Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to officially launch the “Don’t Pack a Pest” program in the Dominican Republic.

“Don’t Pack a Pest” was launched in 2011 to increase awareness of the importance of declaring agricultural products brought into the United States by travelers. Products that should be declared include fresh fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, plant material, animal products and firewood, among others.

Billboard and video advertisements featuring the message can be seen in 20 of the busiest airports across the continental United States, including Miami, Orlando, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco, as well as airports in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now the Dominican Republic. A recent survey of more than 400 travelers in Miami International Airport showed awareness of declaring agricultural products was up from 37 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2013, a more than 60 percent increase.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Deputy Commissioner Lisa Conti was joined at the press conference today by Jennifer Smythe, Associate Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, William Weissman, Charge d’Affairs with the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, and Luis Ramon Rodriguez, Minister of Agriculture in the Dominican Republic, to officially launch the “Don’t Pack a Pest” program in the Dominican Republic.

“Invasive pests, some of which enter the state through Florida’s international airports, have the potential to devastate Florida’s $108 billion agriculture industry,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Keeping these pests outside our borders is the most effective way to protect our state from threats, and this campaign aims to help us do that.”

Because of its climate, geography and crop diversity, combined with the multiple international air and marine ports throughout the state, Florida faces a high risk for the introduction of pests and diseases. At least one pest or disease is introduced into Florida every month, including pests that are new to Florida, new to the continent or new to the hemisphere.

The “Don’t Pack a Pest” campaign is a collaborative campaign developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.

The campaign features Linus, an agriculture detector dog, whose responsibility is to detect the presence of agricultural products in luggage and with travelers. The “Don’t Pack a Pest” message is communicated through videos and more than 350 signs on display at major ports across the United States and the Caribbean. Other elements of the campaign include public service announcements, billboards and social media.

For more information about the “Don’t Pack a Pest” campaign, please visit http://www.dontpackapest.com.

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