United States Department of Agriculture

Alecia Veesenmeyer is her name.  Plant protection and quarantine officer is her game.  She works at the United States Department of Agriculture.  She oversees exports and provides service to exports, helps people by answering questions, makes sure her paperwork is satisfactory in meeting federal requirements, and works together with Homeland Security.  Daily work includes reviewing and signing paperwork.  Every so often when there are shipments in, Alecia inspects an export shipment.  Sometimes there are shipments every day of the week, and sometimes they don’t come in but once a week or less.  She also writes monthly reports summarizing activity funding.

Alecia got to her job today by earning a Bachelors degree in the science field during college, which took her four years.  She doesn’t need to know any languages.  To advance in her job, which would be to a supervisory position, she would have to go back to school for two to three years to receive her Masters degree.  She works Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Alecia likes her job because she gets to use her degree to an extent.  She likes to help people and she works independently.  She doesn’t like how she is in an office all day by herself because there is no one to help and can be overwhelming.  A person in her position can make on average $23,000 to $40,000 a year, unless a supervisor.  She doesn’t have to travel unless for development assignments which are out of state.  Her advice to anyone pursuing this particular career is to have a science background and be able to help people.  She trained for three months for her job in Washington D.C.   But now anyone who wants this job has to take a test to get in.

The USDA is responsible for enforcing regulations specific to the import and export of plants regulated by Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which is issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  When inspecting an export shipment, she makes sure the senders have all the correct paper work, that it is a clean product, no pests or rodents are in it, and she certifies that the product is what the sender reports it is.  An inspection can take up to 15 to 20 minutes.  If Alecia finds anything, she collects a sample.  She then conducts research on it and identifies what it is, and if it is a pest of concern.  She then has three options after the data results; she can treat the shipment, destroy it, or send it back.

The inspection I went was of three different exports of Ginseng.  Ginseng is a root from cultivated farms near Wausau, Wisconsin.  Little do some people know that Wisconsin is primarily the Ginseng State.  USDA requires permits for individuals or companies engaging in the business of importing, exporting, or re-exporting terrestrial plants.  CITES is an agreement between national governments that helps member countries control and monitor protected plant and animal populations that would otherwise be threatened with extinction due to excessive trade. CITES does not prohibit trade in the protected species but regulates the trade through a system of permits.  The reason for CITES is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.  The fee for the CITES permit is $70.00.

There are three permits that are needed for the Ginseng shipment, they are CITES, a USDA General Permit, which is issued by her agency and allows the exporter to import and export endangered or threatened species, and state certificates which are inspectional reports issued by each state’s equivalent of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), attesting to the type of ginseng, amount in pounds, and who bought it. These state certificates must be with the paperwork that she signs for each shipment.  It can normally take 10 to 15 working days for a permit to be issued.  Shipping without a permit is a violation of the Federal Plant Pest Act of 1957.  Also, sometimes a fourth permit must be attached to the paperwork.  It is a Phytosanitary Certificate, which is a certification that the product is free of pests.  It can help the product get into the country faster.

She will issue the Emergency Action Notification (EAN) to importers when the shipment doesn’t meet import requirements or there is a pest that isn’t found in that country.  The importer can choose from a few options from the EAN:  re-export the shipment, destroy it by burning it to ash, or treat the shipment by fumigating it.  The importer must choose and option within a certain time period.  The EAN form can be used if she discovers a store owner or other citizen that has a prohibited item(s), which wasn’t caught when it was imported.  She can seize the item(s) and give the individual that form as proof and for a reason.  Items seized can include fruits and vegetables, noxious weeds, animal products from other countries that are prohibited because of animal diseases prevalent in those countries, as well as live animals such as insects or snails.

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