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Agricultural inspections to resume at Ehrenberg, Ariz. port of entry

The Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) is gearing up to reestablish inspection efforts of agricultural products in eastbound traffic at the port of entry at Ehrenberg, Ariz., located on Interstate 10 near the Arizona-California border.

Closed for about two years due to ADA budget cuts, the Ehrenberg port could open as early as August. About $425,000 from the 2008 Arizona state budget was earmarked to resume ADA agricultural inspections at Ehrenberg. Once open, 10 ADA staff members would operate the port five days a week, 16 hours per day.

“This funding will go a long way in protecting Arizona agriculture. The 10 additional inspectors are the first step in upgrading Arizona’s first line of defense against harmful foreign pests,” said ADA director Don Butler.

ADA inspectors generally are on the lookout for invasive pests and diseases such as the glassy-winged sharpshooter, citrus canker, gypsy moth, red imported fire ant, citrus greening, and mealybug.

On Arizona’s western border, the ADA currently conducts inspections five days a week, 16 hours a day, at the port of entry near Yuma. Beyond the 10 new employees, 11 more are needed to bring the Ehrenberg and Yuma ports to full 24/7 operation, said ADA associate director John Caravetta.

The ADA currently has 32 port inspection employees.

“We’ve intercepted gypsy moths and red imported fire ants with frequency, and intercepted a number of scale insect pests and mealybugs. We are concerned with wood-boring pests that have wreaked havoc in the Eastern U.S. Other major pests include the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorn beetle.”

When Arizona ports were previously fully staffed, about 12 percent to 16 percent of trucks carrying agricultural commodities were rejected for different reasons. “In pest interceptions, we would inspect 200,000 trucks and have a 10 percent pest interception rate.”

Eastern Arizona ports of entry at Sanders (Interstate 40) and San Simon (Interstate 10) are currently fully staffed and operate 24/7. The staffing is partially funded by the California Department of Agriculture through a contract with ADA. The agreement signed around the year 2000 also helps provide one to two shifts per week at the Duncan, Ariz. port.

“We are under contractual arrangement with the CDFA to pre-clear some (California-bound) trucks that we have an interest in,” Caravetta said. “We’re under agreement on California-bound trucks specifically for the red imported fire ant and the glassy-winged sharpshooter. The contract is valued at $350,000 annually and supports 25 percent of the staff at eastern Arizona border ports.”

ADA inspectors haven’t found any glassy-winged sharpshooters, and Caravetta believes this speaks well to industry compliance.

“It also speaks to the challenges of thoroughly inspecting the entire load of nursery stock at a port of entry. Access inside the truck isn’t good and the way it’s packed makes inspections more difficult.”

On June 18, 2007, ADA inspectors at the Sanders port caught individuals trying to smuggle over $1 million into Arizona in a commercial truck-tractor and box trailer carrying a load of onions and watermelons. The money was found in a spare tire.

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