SCP’s Specialty Crops Inspection Services & SC Market News Answers The Call

Dana Stewart 
Specialty Crops inspection Division

As recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma progresses, the AMS Specialty Crops Program (SCP) continues to review its “first-response” activities to ensure we are ready to effectively respond to future disaster relief efforts.  In the aftermath of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, SCP quickly brought food safety inspection services and market news information up-to-speed almost immediately. 

“Our team was ready and rose to the challenge.  While addressing the dire needs of their own families and neighbors, they returned to flooded offices and duty stations to serve our customers. As a division, we identified and deployed additional resources to the affected areas to ensure continued service delivery,” Lorenzo A. Tribbett, Director, Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division, said of the determination and dedication of SCI team members who were impacted by the storms. 

In Houston, on Aug. 31, three days after the storm pummeled the area with up to 40 inches of rain, two SCI staff members were back on duty. They provided inspections on 14 lots and one 8e import inspection, managing to accomplish more than one-third of the inspections they completed in the previous week’s good weather. The entire Houston staff reported to work on Tuesday, Sept. 4.  Before the storm cleared the area, SCI had identified additional resources for deployment to the affected areas to provide service on an exceptionally high volume of inspections as the ports fully reopened.  

Our SCI Winter Haven, Florida staff members were working the day after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state from the Keys to Jacksonville.  With temperatures in the 90s, in a building with only limited emergency power, staff members were on duty to sweep water from the basement to prevent mold, and to ice frozen and refrigerated inspection samples to preserve their integrity.  The SCI offices had partial emergency power through Sept. 13. Even with these challenges, staff reported to the Port of Tampa to inspect imported citrus juices, working under contingency plans they developed to grade the product at an off-site location in the event power was not restored to the Winter Haven office.  Employees at in-plant locations began returning to duty on Sept. 13 with all plant locations fully operational by Sept. 18.

Specialty Crops Market News (SCMN) tracks and reports on the markets for a broad range of specialty crops and products, and reports the volume of movement and other important factors, like the supply of available trucks.  After a major event like a hurricane, Market News reaches out to its many contacts, including buyers, sellers and brokers, to get an assessment of the storm’s impact on production, imports, market structures, and labor availability. 

SCMN monitors major points of entry for specialty crops, including Houston, Freeport, and Galveston. The week-ending totals for August 19th and 26th totaled 11.8 million and 23.7 million pounds of specialty crops, respectively.  The week of the hurricane Houston area ports severely curtailed operations as only 103,980 pounds were handled, reflecting the major impact of the storm.  Within the following two weeks, the ports recovered quickly, reporting 11.9 million and 10.1 million pounds of specialty crops. 

While addressing the terrible impacts of this season’s hurricanes on their families and communities, SCI Division and SCMN employees worked diligently to get important inspection services and vital information networks up and running as quickly as possible – facilitating the fastest economic recovery possible for the impacted areas.  We are proud of the SCP team.