Thursday, March 17, 2005 | County agriculture officials recommended quarantine on avocado crops this week to prevent the spread of the avocado lace bug. Quarantines have proved costly for farmers in recent years, and the San Diego County Farm Bureau believes there are some problems caused by our proximity to the border that just can’t be helped.

Despite the ongoing debates over border fences, illegal immigration and commercial trucks, San Diego and Mexico enjoy a good relationship fueled by the north and south flow of culture, goods, tourists and labor. Farmers in San Diego County share in that strategic relationship with their dependence on a workforce largely born in Mexico. But farmers must keep a wary eye turned towards the south.

Farming is, on its best day, risky. Weather, bugs, disease, consumer whims, daily price volatility and rising costs would shake any reasonable business model. But farmers have an innate ability to face down those risks and in doing so have made San Diego County the 12th largest agriculture economy among all counties in the nation. Mexico, however, adds to the risk equation with its assortment of pests that thrive in that nation’s tropical climes.

Quarantines are expensive

Breaking the law

While farmers would love to see a greater number of inspectors standing on the border to protect against possible infestations, they know that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has its priorities straight in trying to protect our nation from people who would do us harm. Farmers in San Diego County also know that we have been free from new pests since the Department of Homeland Security took charge of our borders. But farmers also know it is just a matter of time until the next quarantine is declared.

An orange with a Mexican fruit fly

Having Mexico as our neighbor is a blessing, clearly seen in our mixed culture. But that country has bugs and diseases we can’t tolerate. Until the public understands that the admonition not to bring farm products across the border is real, being a farmer in San Diego County will remain more risky than it should.

Eric Larson is the executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

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