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Plant Protection Today - Multi-Agency Team Acts Fast to Protect U.S. Agriculture

Multi-Agency Team Acts Fast to Protect U.S. Agriculture
July 31, 2020

PPQ Announces 2019 Deputy Administrator’s Safeguarding Award Recipients  

By Greg Rosenthal

Osama El-Lissy, Deputy Administrator of USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program, presented the 2019 Deputy Administrator’s Safeguarding Award to the Multiagency Infested Sea Container Response Team. This award, formally announced in June 2020, recognizes exceptional work in safeguarding America’s agricultural and natural resources.

The incident began on October 1, 2019, at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point in North Carolina. This massive facility serves as a transfer point between rail, trucks, and ships for the U.S. military. When U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspected military sea containers that had just arrived from Korea, they discovered suspect sawflies and Asian gypsy moth egg masses. PPQ quickly identified the pests and recommended full inspection of all 1,000 containers to mitigate the risk.

CBP immediately realized they needed help to perform a task of this magnitude, and PPQ managers acted fast to pull in resources. Within a few hours, they scheduled a team of volunteers from PPQ units in three States, as well as the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The volunteers quickly shifted work and personal plans to assist with limited notice. Everyone understood that timely inspections were crucial to safeguarding American agriculture, and their rapid response reflected their strong commitment to the mission.

The multi-agency group developed an effective inspection process by staging containers efficiently, saving time and cost. They also created a collection device to remove egg masses from the underside of containers without needing to stand under a container, which was prohibited. As a result, the group successfully inspected all 1,000 containers within 9 days. In total, they intercepted 225 pests, including 115 Asian gypsy moth egg masses, and fumigated 196 containers, working after hours and on weekends.

By quickly coordinating a multi-agency response, the group mitigated the risk of these harmful pests becoming established in the United States, where they could damage agriculture and natural resources and require significant costs for eradication. In addition, the team ensured that the U.S. military could safely move the now-cleared containers that held important cargo to their destinations as quickly as possible, minimizing disruptions to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). This operation strengthened the relationships between PPQ, CBP, DoD, and the State, enhancing the safeguarding efforts of all the organizations now and in the future.

(left to right) Joe Beckwith, PPQ’s State Plant Health Director for North Carolina; Joy Goforth, the State Plant Regulatory Official for North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Jim Kelley, Supervisory Agricultural Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and, Michael Fuller, Forester and response team liaison with the U.S. Department of Defense received the award on behalf of their respective teams. See below for the team’s full listing.

Multiagency Infested Sea Container Response Team

Plant Protection and Quarantine

  • Mr. Joseph Beckwith
  • Ms. Abby Stilwell
  • Mr. Charles Citrone
  • Ms. Carla Coots
  • Mr. Timothy Stevens
  • Ms. Sheena Goundie
  • Ms. Catherine Wills
  • Ms. Alyson Bendzinski
  • Mr. Gregory Cottingham
  • Ms. Joann Curfman
  • Mr. Christian Russe
  • Mr. Alberto Umpierre-Juarbe
  • Mr. Jonathan King
  • Ms. Laura Jeffers
  • Mr. Yunke Wu
  • Ms. Marjorie Palmeri
  • Ms. Kendra Vieira 

North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 

  • Ms. Joy Goforth
  • Ms. Ann Gallagher
  • Mr. David Pearce
  • Ms. Jensen McLamb
  • Mr. Scott Cannady
  • Ms. Whitney Swink
  • Mr. Jarred Driscoll
  • Ms. Allison Ballantyne 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection 

  • Mr. Jim Kelley
  • Ms. Rayme J. Ortega
  • Ms. Courtney B. Clewis
  • Ms. Lindsey Lukowski 

U.S. Department of Defense 

  • Mr. Michael Fuller
  • Mr. Spero Pekatos
  • Mr. Steven W. Kerr

The United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health(IYPH) and then extended the celebration through July1, 2021. This worldwide campaign is promoting the value of our precious plant resources and the need to safeguard them against invasive pests. To celebrate IYPH, each month Plant Protection Today is highlighting how PPQ safeguards America’s agricultural and natural resources against invasive pests, and facilitates the safe trade of agricultural products. Read our article on IYPH to learn more—and how you can join this once-in-a-lifetime event!


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