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Holiday Plants May Threaten Local Agriculture

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December 5, 2008

As gift packages are shipped across the country for the holiday season, the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures urges the public to be aware of the risk of introducing an agricultural pest into San Diego.

The Department’s staff regularly inspects parcel facilities, looking for packages containing plant materials. However, with increased holiday shipping, the County needs your help to ensure that incoming plant material, including fruits and vegetables, are screened for pests.

“Flowers, fruits and plants are part of many holiday celebrations and customs,” said Robert Atkins, County Agricultural Commissioner.

“Unfortunately, these parcels have the greatest risk of containing insects or diseases that could devastate our agricultural industry and home gardens.”

California law requires residents to contact the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office when transporting or receiving plant products, in order to have the material inspected.

“If you open your parcel and find the shipping documents stamped “INSPECTED AND RELEASED,” or if you see a green and white 'PASSED CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE' sticker on the outside of the package, it has already been cleared.

"However, if you receive a package containing plant material that has not already been inspected, please call our office at (760) 752-4713. The inspection request line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and an inspector will return calls during regular working hours,” said Atkins.

Agriculture is the fifth most important industry in San Diego County with 308,991 acres and $1.5 billion for the local economy.

San Diego County ranks number one in both California and the nation in the nursery, floriculture and avocado industries. Statewide, San Diego County is in the top five in the production of oranges, chickens, fresh market tomatoes, eggs, mushrooms, grapefruit, tangerines and honey.

The majority of farms in the county are family-owned and less than 10 acres.