European agricultural pests pose threat to US farmers

by Robert Szostek
U.S. European Command Customs Public Affairs

Europe is home to many agricultural pests that are not found in the United States, and soil is a natural hideout for them. This is why cleaning anything that collects dirt before you send it stateside is so important. These pests can cause great damage to the U.S. farming economy.

“You can unwittingly introduce invasive pests and disease into the USA,” said Scott Sanner, U.S. Department of Agriculture adviser at the U.S. European Command Customs and Border Clearance Agency. “It only takes one bit of soil on your car, lawn furniture, bicycle, field gear, shoe or boot.” Vehicles and military equipment are especially prone to contamination by dirt, mud and soil, he added.

“It is so important to clean everything you ship or mail home, whether it is as a private person or as part of your work,” Sanner said.

This is also why USEUCOM has a border clearance program that inspects personal property, privately owned vehicles and military shipments destined for the U.S. to prevent any pests from spreading.

“For example, the burrowing nematode is a tiny worm not native to the states, but it could hide in the mud on your boots,” Sanner said. “If you took that mud stateside, the nematode eggs could later hatch and attack the roots of banana or citrus trees.”

Losses on infested trees costs millions of dollars annually.

The golden nematode attacks potatoes and tomatoes reducing yields by as much as 80 percent. It threatens annual crop yields of over $1 billion.

Call a military customs office to find out more agricultural threats to the U.S. or visit