Petal to metal: Rose inspections didn’t stop during shutdown

MIAMI (AP) — Throughout the five-week government shutdown, one essential government service continued at Miami International Airport: checking for exotic bugs in bunches of roses destined for Valentine’s Day bouquets.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors kept up their round-the-clock inspections without pay just as the pre-holiday rush of flower imports started to peak.

About 90 percent of cut flowers imported into the U.S. every year come through the Miami airport. Border Protection agriculture specialists check those goods by hand, stem by stem, for stowaways that could threaten U.S. crops.

Last year, agriculture inspectors in Miami examined 1.3 billion cut flower stems and kept over 2,100 pests from leaving the airport during the Valentine’s season. The delicate cargo flies into Miami on 95 to 100 daily flights, mostly from Colombia and Ecuador.

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