Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

The Border Protection Station at Truckee – from Channel 4, Reno

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By Ben Margiott

If you’ve ever driven into California, you’ve slowed or maybe even stopped at the agricultural inspection station before Truckee.

Many of my family and friends live near Sacramento, and I love to snowboard in the Tahoe area, so I drive through it often and have always wondered; what’s the point?

Every year around 6 million cars and trucks drive through the Truckee station, one of 16 stations operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

CDFA believes its stations are the “first line of defense” against invasive species that, if introduced to crops in the Golden State, could wreak havoc on the massive agriculture industry.

One study showed that for every dollar spent keeping the pests out of California, about $14 is saved in control costs and potential economic losses.

Inspectors perform brief visual inspections about 70 percent of the time, verbal inspections about 20 percent of the time and physical inspections about 10 percent of the time, according to Truckee station manager Adriaan Gilis.

But why does it seem like drivers coming from Northern Nevada almost never get stopped?

Much of the produce in Nevada grocery stores is grown in California already. Produce coming from the Midwest or the East Coast is far more likely to be carrying invasive species.

Roughly four out of every 1,000 cars checked has contraband. There were over 1,800 interceptions at the Truckee station alone in 2016, according to data provided by CDFA.

The pest that poses the biggest threat right now is the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries a bacterial disease called Huanglongbing. Other pests they search for include Japanese beetles, Emerald ash borers, gypsy moths and Mexican fruit flies.

Gilis said that occasionally his inspectors protect the public from dangers you might not be aware of.

“It’s nice when we take the cherries from people from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and they’re homegrown and they’re eating away and you grab one and pop it open and show them the larva that they’ve been eating all day long,” Gills said.

Despite checking hundreds of cars each day, the inspectors are still sometimes caught off guard.

“One of our inspectors inspecting the back of a vehicle (saw) a Rubbermaid tub with holes in it and looks in it and there’s baby alligators about a foot long,” Gilis said. “(They are) restricted coming in to California and were refused entry here at the station.”

Find out more about California’s Border Protection Stations.

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