Agents busy inspecting flowers ahead of Valentine's Day

San Diego ranks third nationwide for inspections
Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 00:21:30-05
They're the men and women you're used to seeing when you drive across the border, but what does Valentine's Day have to do with Border Protection?
I found out it's not only a busy time for florists, but for customs inspectors who have to stop and smell the roses.
At Flower Connection in Chula Vista, Adriana Meza and family are hard at work getting getting ready for their busiest time of the year.
“This is by far not even half,” Meza said showing the inside of the cooler.
They’ve been in business more than 25 years, and she's expecting several more shipments — some local and others outside the U.S.
“They come from Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia,” she said.
But before those flowers can become part of a beautiful bouquet, many come through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
“Every year, we get more and more,” said Rosie Maisuzz with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Last year, agriculture specialists in San Diego inspected more than 21 million fresh cut flowers for the Valentine's Day season.
“We are actually 3rd nationwide,” Maisuzz explained.
The majority of shipments arrive in the morning. They're rolled off trucks and into the inspection room.
“We look for insects.  We look for diseases,” she said.
Inspections can take between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the shipment and type of flowers. Left unchecked, many of the pests could destroy crops and harm the environment, costing the country billions of dollars.
Customs and Border Protection tells 10News they have been seeing close to double the number of trucks because of the Valentine's Day demand. 
From stem to store, the entire process is all designed to make sure your flowers are as safe and flawless as possible.
Despite seeing them every day, Meza says they still hold a special place in her heart.
“When my husband sends me a dozen roses, it's still amazing.”
If you plan to take drive flowers into the U.S. from Mexico, you cannot bring Chrysanthemums or Murrayas.
You must also declare any kind of fresh flowers you want to bring across the border.