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Holiday Plants, Fruits Can Carry More Than Cheer

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December 13, 2010

The holidays are the time to spread good cheer --- not invasive pests!  Help the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures protect our region from agricultural loss by calling (760) 752-4713 if you receive shipped plants or fruit that do not appear to have been inspected.

Agriculture, Weights and Measures staff, including its “detector dogs” Friday and Drake, regularly inspect parcel facilities to sniff out packages that contain plant material to make sure they’re not carrying hitchhikers: invasive pests that can damage local agriculture and ecology.  However, with the increased holiday-season shipping, the County needs your help to make sure all incoming plant material, including fruits and vegetables, are screened for pests.

Related Video: Canine Team Sniffs Out Dangerous Plants

“Many holiday celebrations and customs include flowers, fruits and plants, said Robert Atkins, County Agricultural Commissioner. “Unfortunately, shipped plant material poses 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 plant material out of the county, or receiving materials shipped from outside the county.

“If you open your parcel and find the shipping documents stamped “INSPECTED AND RELEASED,” or you see a green and white “PASSED CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE” sticker on the outside, the package has already been inspected and cleared,” Atkins said. “However, if you receive a package containing plant material that hasn’t been inspected, please call our hotline at (760) 752-4713. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and an inspector will return calls during working hours.”

Agriculture is San Diego County’s fifth largest industry at $1.5 billion annually. The County ranks first in the nation in the nursery, floriculture and avocado industries, and has several crops that rank among the top five in production in the state, including: oranges, eggs, fresh market tomatoes, tangerines, mushrooms and grapefruit.   

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