Pest Exclusion Inspections

Our Mission

Commercial nurseries are just one example of the type of sites inspected to exclude incoming pests.Pest exclusion involves keeping invasive agricultural and environmental pests out of the state of California and Fresno County, and preventing or limiting the spread of newly discovered pests. Inspectors from the Fresno County Department of Agriculture (the Department) conduct inspections on incoming plant and plant product shipments at commercial parcel carrier facilities, nurseries, and other establishments. Incoming plant products from other counties, states, or countries must be kept in an isolated holding area away from production areas to prevent possible pest infestations until released by an inspector.

Parcel Inspections and Dog Teams

Our High-Risk Pest Exclusion staff monitor the pathways where many invasive pests are introduced into the state. Shipments of packages from around the world come into Fresno County through the various ground and air parcel carriers.

Department staff conduct inspections of these packages at parcel carriers such as FedEx and UPS. Department staff enforce agricultural quarantine laws and regulations pertaining to agricultural products. Packages in violation of quarantine laws and regulations, or ones that are found to be infested with pests are subject to destruction, treatment, or being returned to origin. This is how we keep invasive pests out of California and Fresno County.

Invasive pests must be eradicated if they become established in the environment. Eradication efforts are extremely expensive and not always successful. Quarantines that are established by our trading partners significantly reduce our ability to export our produce around the world.

The California Food and Agricultural Code requires specific markings on packages containing plant material. Interstate shipments are required to be marked with the name and address of the shipper or owner; the name of the person to whom the shipment is forwarded or shipped or the name of his or her agent; the name of the country, state, or territory where the contents were grown; and a statement of its contents. Intrastate shipments are required to be marked with the name and address of the shipper or owner; the name of the person to whom the shipment is forwarded or shipped or the name of his or her agent; the name of the county where the contents of the shipment were grown; and a statement of its contents. This is so that inspectors have a visual indicator that a package may need to be inspected and know what is in the package and where it originated.

Secret Weapon Alert
Unmarked packages present a special challenge as there is no indication that the package contains plant material and could harbor an invasive pest. Department staff must use their knowledge and years of experience to detect these packages. The Department also utilizes two canine teams, our secret weapons, to detect plant material in unmarked packages. One of the teams is completely funded by the US Farm Bill. Handler Samantha Tomlinson and canine Soya were required to complete a 10-week training program at the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center in Georgia. The second team, handler Patricia Henke and canine Luna, is funded by pest exclusion programs.

The canine teams greatly enhance our ability to intercept and inspect plant material in unmarked packages. The canines alert on marked and unmarked parcels that contain plant material. A biologist can then inspect the packages that the dogs have alerted on for any unwanted plant pests, and diseases. Finds by our two dog teams have included pest species of ants, scales, and plant pathogens.

Canines Soya and Luna, handled by Samantha Tomlinson and Patty Henke.

Left: Detection of unmarked parcel containing fruits and veggies by canine Soya. Right: Canine Luna working the belt at a parcel terminal.

Incoming Beehive Inspections

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, close to 75% of the world’s crops producing fruits and seeds depend on pollinators such as bees. During the almond pollination season, beehives from numerous US states are brought to the San Joaquin Valley for almond pollination. Occasionally, hives can be infested with invasive pests which are known or suspected to be economically or environmentally detrimental and are either not known to be established in Fresno County or present in a limited distribution. Examples of these pests include red imported fire ants (RIFA), snails, and other insects.

Beekeepers and brokers bringing beehives into California will receive a warning notice to hold the shipment for inspection from the California Border Station. The Department must be notified of the location where the hives have been placed. Our staff inspect the hives after they are placed in the orchards. If any pests of concern are discovered, the hives are then required to be treated or destroyed to prevent pests from becoming established. With the cooperation of the beekeeper, sometimes only infested hive bodies need to be treated or destroyed. The bees can be saved and transferred to clean hive boxes.

A rated Banded wood snail (Cepaea nemoralis) discovered on beehives.

Fresno County inspectors inspecting offloaded beehives in a holding yard.

Nursery Inspections: Find Pests, Prevent Movement

Nursery inspections and regulatory activities can prevent numerous pests from being introduced into agricultural and urban communities by prevention and/or eradication of pests at the nursery level. Nurseries are inspected to assure compliance with pest cleanliness, labeling, quality, and varietal trueness standards. The quality of nursery stock has improved as a direct result of the regulation of nursery stock to the benefit of both production agriculture and the general public who purchases landscape plants at retail neighborhood nurseries.

Nursery plants and other plant material arriving via truck receive a cursory inspection at California Border Stations. The shipment is then forwarded to the destination county under a warning notice to hold the shipment for inspection. The phone number for the local County Agricultural Commissioner will be listed on the notice. Receivers of these shipments must hold the shipment until it is inspected and released by the County Agricultural Commissioner.

License to Sell Nursery Stock

A License To Sell Nursery Stock (license) shall be obtained from the Secretary of Food and Agriculture before any sales are made. The license is issued for a 12-month period. The minimum fee for a license is $150. It is required for each branch sales yard, store, or sales location which is owned and operated in the state. A location where nursery stock is grown or assembled for distribution directly to customers is a branch sales yard, store, or sales location and requires an additional license.

In addition, an acreage fee is required for land in excess of one acre used in the production, storage, or sale of nursery stock. The acreage fee established by the Secretary may not be less than $25 or more than $900. In calculating the acreage fee, the total acreage of all branch sales and growing-grounds shall be used. The acreage fee does not apply to those licensees whose gross income from the production of cut flowers and cut ornamentals are 75% or greater of the gross income of their nursery.

License to Sell Nursery Stock Application Form

Fee Exempt License

Requirements to apply for a fee exempt license are as follows:

  1. Total sales must be less than $1,000 per year.
  2. You must report intent to sell to the Agricultural Commissioner.
  3. Plants must be of your own production.
  4. Plants are to be sold only within the county of production.

Fee-Exempt License Application Form