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October 26, 09

NEWS / Baltimore CBP Hops on Bamboo Scarecrow Threat

Baltimore Ė A jacketed, striped-trouser bunny sitting atop a bamboo stake isnít the first image one would consider threatening, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists know that itís not whatís outside that poses the threat. Itís the plant disease and insect pests inside that pose the greatest concern.

Consequently, a shipment of bunny scarecrows from Hong Kong was destroyed on Tuesday by its importer after the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that the bamboo stakes posed a threat to American agriculture.

Bamboo is regulated from all countries to prevent the entry of bamboo smut (Ustilago shirani) and other exotic pathogens. According to the USDA, bamboo smut is one of the most harmful diseases of bamboo. The pathogen attacks and kills young canes. Additionally, bamboo stakes are a known pest risk as a host for wood borers and other insect pests.

ďOur concern is that the disease and insect pests hitchhiking inside the bamboo could pose a significant threat to our nationís agriculture industry and consequently to our nationís economy,Ē said Augustine Moore, CBP assistant port director for the Port of Baltimore. ďCBP agriculture specialists take their mission very serious and were pretty quick to hop on this potential threat.Ē

While inspecting a container of baskets and handicrafts on September 29, CBP agriculture specialists discovered one box of sample bunny scarecrows affixed to bamboo stakes. CBP quarantined the shipment and forwarded photographs of the scarecrow to the USDA.

Last Friday, the USDA advised CBP that the samples were indeed a threat and needed to be fumigated, re-exported or destroyed.

CBP then issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer of their remediation choices and the importer elected to destroy the scarecrow shipment.

This interdiction was part of CBPís ongoing agriculture Operation Basket Case, which targets shipments of baskets and handicrafts from China made with tree bark. Wood bark is a primary vehicle for wood boring hitchkikers. The majority of tree bark baskets and handicrafts arrived from China and other Pacific Rim nations.

CBP agricultural specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agriculture inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,125 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 435 insect pests.




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