Stopping plants, pests, blood and other ag threats at the border

State News

A biohazard bag, reportedly containing “COVID-19 samples,” was part of a shipment of blood products found in a minivan and stopped at the border from entering the U.S. Among other things, the items didn’t have proper, legal documentation..

It’s not just people and commercial products that are sometimes stopped and prevented from entering the U.S. at border crossings in Pembina, Portal and other locations.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Specialists (CBPAS) focus on keeping noxious plants, pests, animal products and other agricultural threats — even questionable blood products — from getting into the U.S. and wreaking havoc on the ag industry.

For example, CBPAS agents in Portal found Imperata cylindrical, commonly known as cogon grass, mixed in a shipment of screws from China. This noxious weed is an invasive species that take over native plant species and is considered a fire hazard because of the oil produced within the plant.

Also within the same shipment, four types of insects were found. One of the insects was Diestrammena sp., commonly known as the camel or cave cricket.

The contents were identified as “contamination,” and the container and contents were returned to China.

During an inspection of a rail container in International Falls, Minnesota, border ag specialists intercepted wood-boring insects identified as Curculionidae, also known as a bark beetle. The bark beetles are a timber pest that damage and kill host trees.

Also found in the container was a Cryptozona bistrialis (Ariophantidae), also known as the Asian land snail. The snails eat mostly carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, and other snails.

Again, the container was returned to China.

In an interesting case, border ag specialists in Pembina encountered a driver operating a minivan with shipments described as “human blood.” During the inspection, a Styrofoam container with vials of blood was discovered, labeled “COVID-19 samples.”

That shipment was returned to Canada due to lack of appropriate documentation.

Pembina Area Port Director Jason Schmelz says seizures like this, and others, shows the importance of an ag focus on everything that crosses the border daily.

“Preventing harm to domestic crops and vegetation is an important role our Agriculture Specialists provide,” he adds.

During the third quarter of 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists issued 194 emergency action notifications; that is, nearly 200 threats to U.S. agriculture were stopped from crossing the border.

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