Travel is a popular activity for a lot of people. When traveling outside the United States, what you bring back really does matter. We want to protect our country from invasive plant pests and diseases to help keep our agriculture and forests safe.
You don’t want to inadvertently bring a pest or disease back with you. That’s why Customs officials ask you to declare any food, plant items or handicrafts you have with you when you are returning to the U.S. They know what items pose a risk and need to be kept out of the country. Many of those items are things you may not think could possibly cause a problem, but they could cause severe problems here at home—who wants that?
There are other things that could cause trouble as well—things like getting spores or disease agents on your shoes if you visit a farm. There’s a section on the Customs form that asks if you visited a farm or agricultural area, so be honest if you did. It’s not something you would necessarily think of as a problem, but could have a negative effect. If you don’t properly clean your shoes, an invasive species could catch a free ride into our country. Depending on the pest, that may cause agricultural losses, raise trade barriers, damage forests and other recreational areas, or worse. The losses could easily reach millions of dollars and impact citizens across the country.
You can prepare in advance of your travels and learn what you can or cannot bring back from a country. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/travel for this important information, including phone numbers you can call so you can get your questions answered by experts. It will help ensure that you bring back great memories and items that are safe to bring home. It will also help you avoid confiscations and civil penalties so you don’t lose that vacation glow!
I wanted to share these international travel tips in early spring, when people begin to travel more often and can accidentally spread invasive pests and diseases. That’s one reason USDA dedicated April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month—the timing couldn’t be better.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Throughout the month, APHIS is posting a series of blog entries here and also share invasive plant pest and disease information through our twitter feed. APHIS and its federal and state partners are fighting to protect our communities, our public lands, and our agricultural resources from invasive species. But we can’t do it alone. Join the fight by visiting www.HungryPests.com.