In the mid 1990s, Asian fruit growers from the Homestead, FL, area complained to the PPQ Deputy Administrator about illegally imported specialty crops from Thailand flooding the New York markets. The agricultural products in New York eliminated the commodities' shipping costs from Florida and adversely affected many growers in the region. PPQ and APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) formed a team that determined the prohibited items from Thailand were being smuggled through the Canadian border in enormous quantities. These prohibited products were being offered for sale in the New York City market areas and were definitely competing with domestic and legal production.
PPQ team members intercepted the prohibited material crossing the Canadian border, and IES prosecuted the violators taking part in the shipping operation. In the first 2 years of the program, more than 68 tons of prohibited Asian fruit were seized and destroyed.
The success of this operation led to the expansion of the program and development of specific position descriptions for PPQ liaison officers. A PPQ liaison officer is a PPQ officer who, in addition to their regular PPQ officer duties, works with IES investigators to identify and close the pathways of the unlawful entry and domestic distribution of prohibited foreign agricultural products into the United States. These positions were established nationwide in small numbers and organized into a network of officers whose main function was to detect and close smuggling pathways.
With new positions and a growing challenge, PPQ established two additional satellite programs: Closing the Los Angeles Marketplace Pathway (CLAMP) and Florida Interdiction and Smuggling Team (FIST). State and Federal officials in the CLAMP program were tasked to detect smuggled fruit-fly host material and close the pathway of that harmful pest. FIST, on the other hand, had objectives much larger in scope. Both programs effectively sealed off pathways for potential exotic pest introductions into the United States. As the organization became more successful, it was recognized into a disparate regulatory force within PPQ and reorganized into the current Smuggling Interdiction, and Trade Compliance program.