WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service plans to open a new Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection and Port Technology Methods Development Laboratory in South Miami, Fla., later this year.



Scientists at this new facility will work to develop and validate state-of-the art commodity treatments and port inspection technologies used by APHIS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection to ensure that agriculture imports are free of invasive species.



"APHIS' work at this new laboratory will play a crucial role in protecting American agriculture," said Bruce Knight, under secretary for USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area. "The new technologies developed and tested here will ensure that invasive species that could cause irreparable harm to this country's diverse agricultural and natural resources do not have the opportunity to enter and become established."



This laboratory will help APHIS advance its mission to protect the United States' agricultural and natural resources from invasive plant pests and diseases. The scientists' focus at this facility includes developing alternatives to methyl bromide for fumigation, treatment methods and pest detection technologies for use in the ports, including chemical sensors and acoustic devices. In addition, work on controlled temperature and atmosphere treatments for commodities, as well as methods to trace a commodities origin, also will take place.



This new methods development laboratory, which is part of APHIS' Center for Plant Health and Science Technology, consolidates similar work conducted at several APHIS laboratories across the country. APHIS chose the South Miami location for many reasons which include its proximity to large air and maritime ports of entry, where 84 percent of all cut flowers and 54 percent of all fruits and vegetables are imported into the United States.



The new laboratory, which is scheduled to open later this year also, is collocated with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and close to CBP offices in the area. The collocation of APHIS AQI and ARS will provide a significant enhancement of research and implementation of new technologies to safeguard U.S. agriculture. Since 2003, APHIS and CBP have worked cooperatively to ensure that foreign plant and animal pests and diseases do not enter the United States. Through risk assessments, pathway analyses and rulemaking activities, APHIS continues to set the regulations governing agricultural imports, as well as develop and test methods for detection and treatment of invasive pests and diseases. CBP is responsible for conducting port-of-entry inspections to ensure that commodities are free of foreign pests and diseases.



SOURCE: USDA.