The “Don’t Pack a Pest” campaign went international last month as Jamaica enthusiastically kicked off its own version of the outreach initiative in Montego Bay and Kingston. The Florida-based program warns the public about the risks of bringing undeclared agricultural products—and hitchhiking invasive pests—from one country to another. It’s a cooperative effort among the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and now the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture.
The outreach initiative’s airport signs star Linus the CBP beagle, who sniffs airport passenger baggage in a hunt for prohibited agricultural items that could be harboring foreign pests and diseases. Linus and his fellow APHIS-trained detector dogs prevent these serious threats from wreaking havoc on crops and ecosystems. The signs’ message is clear: “When you travel … Don’t pack a pest … Declare agricultural items.” They’re displayed at Miami International Airport, the Port of Miami, Orlando, and now in Jamaica. As part of this new partnership, the Don’t Pack a Pest website (www.DontPackAPest.com) added travel guidelines explaining what products can and can’t be brought into Jamaica and the United States.
APHIS’ Greater Caribbean Safeguarding Initiative (GCSI) and FDACS invited Jamaica to participate in the campaign, which is funded by Section 10201 of the 2008 Farm Bill. “Through GCSI, APHIS and its partners in the Greater Caribbean Region (GCR) are establishing a multi-national, perimeter defense against the introduction of high-risk plant pests and diseases,” said GCSI Director Jennifer Lemly. The GCR countries, territories, and regional organizations are building partnership networks to promote regional cooperation, and they’re reaping the benefits: sharing critical information, focusing resources more effectively on cooperative pest management activities, increasing scientific and technical expertise in the region, protecting the region from mutual pest threats, and facilitating regional economic growth.
APHIS is working with regional plant health directors to bring more GCR countries into the Don’t Pack a Pest program. The GCR includes the Caribbean islands, portions of South America (Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana) Central America, Panama and the United States: Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To learn more about the GCSI, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/international_safeguarding/plants/gcsi. And be sure to visit www.DontPackAPest.com to see a video of Linus in action.
If you like Linus, see the APHIS Detector Dog Training process and learn how APHIS develops dogs like him to help protect American agriculture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSP1WehT750&list=UUa0vIRRveIsz_fzhl_H6VtA&index=40&feature=plpp_video