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Entomology and Nursery - FAQs

I don’t keep any plant material on hand, do I still need a license?

Yes, the Plant Protection Act requires that any dealer or agent must obtain a license beforehand. This is before soliciting, landscaping, taking orders, selling, storing or delivering stock. This also allows NMDA to compile a list of the businesses which have the potential to be affected by plant pests.

What license category do I need?

Depending on the activities of your business you may require more than one type of license. If you buy and resell nursery and/or florist stock you need a  Nursery Dealer   license for each sales location. If you grow and sell nursery stock you need the  Inspection Certificate,   also referred to as a grower’s license. If you collect plants and sell them you need the  Collected Plant Permit. The special licenses,  Special Dealer and Special Vegetable Plant Inspection Certificate, are only for limited sales of certain plants.

Does my license fee cover the cost of inspections?

No. The license fee is applied to the operating budget, but in most cases does not cover the costs of conducting an inspection.

Do other states have a program similar to this?

Yes. Every state that ships plant material to other states must have an inspection program to ensure that the stock being shipped is healthy and pest-free. Although not all states require licensing of businesses that sell plant material within their state. There usually is an inspection program (i.e. port inspections) that limits the introduction or spread of new plant pests.

Why is the fee for a high volume business the same as for a small business?

The Plant Protection Act sets the fee schedule for licenses. Any change to this structure would require a change of the law itself. Support from the regulated industry is needed for any changes to the law.

How does licensing for plant vendors at Farmers’ Markets work?

A farmer’s market or growers cooperative can obtain a Farmers Market license. This allows anyone selling plant material at that market only, to sell plants or cut flowers grown by them. Each market obtains the license and makes its own arrangements with the members regarding the payment of fees for that license.

I will be shipping some of my plant material to a customer in another state.  Are there any special requirements to send my plants out of New Mexico?

Yes. To send plant material out of state you will at the very least need a certificate of inspection. Depending on when you were last inspected, an inspector may perform a general inspection of your business before the certificate is issued. The certificate states that your plant material and premises have been inspected and are apparently free of especially injurious plant pests. The certificate will expire with your license every September 30 and will need to be renewed.

The certificate of inspection is the minimum needed to conduct interstate shipping. However, you may also need a state or federal phytosanitary certificate. This is depending on the destination and type of shipment. Prior to issuing the phytosanitary certificate, NMDA must receive a completed  Request for Phytosanitary Certificate application. An inspector will then check the plants to be shipped to verify that they are pest-free. There is a nominal charge for the inspector’s travel and time to perform this type of inspection, as well as a small fee for the certificate itself. Unlike a certificate of inspection, a phytosanitary certificate is only good for one shipment.

In addition, some states have quarantines in place that require New Mexico nurseries to take special measures to prevent moving pests along with plants. For example, most western states require certification that New Mexico plants are free from Japanese beetle. This may involve compliance agreement trapping or chemical treatment for Japanese beetle, which will be documented in a phytosanitary certificate.

The process of shipping plants interstate can be complex. However, these safeguards are in place to prevent the accidental introduction of damaging plant pests to new areas. It is recommended that you coordinate your activities with NMDA well in advance of the proposed shipping date.  Since certification requirements vary by state, NMDA will help you determine what documents must accompany your plant material out of New Mexico.

What happens if the proper certification is not sent or is not available?

If shipments arrive without the necessary documents and cannot be obtained from the supplier, the shipment can be rejected. It may be ordered to be returned to the supplier. If the paperwork which accompanied plants already in stock isn’t available, these plants may be removed from sale. That is why it is very important to keep a copy of all of these documents until the plant material that they came with is no longer in inventory.

I am moving to New Mexico from another state, can I bring my personal houseplants with me?

There are no regulations that specifically address the movement of houseplants as part of a move. We do request that you look at each plant carefully and leave behind those that are not healthy, infested with plant pests or diseases.

What is the inspector looking for?

An inspector will want to review the shipping documents for the proper certification depending on the origin of the plants. All plant material shipped from state to state requires an Inspection Certificate with every shipment.  Also, there are several quarantines that require additional declarations or types of certification. These include Imported Fire Ant, Japanese Beetle, Pecan Weevil, and   Phytopthora ramorum. Certification helps ensure specific shipments are not spreading a new pest in New Mexico. A visual inspection of a percentage of all plant material is also done to look for insects, diseases, weeds or other pests.

What equipment does an inspector normally use to do an inspection?

Inspectors are highly trained and educated individuals with degrees in relevant fields. At a minimum, an inspector will use a hand-lens or loupe to examine plants in order to determine the viability of any insects, eggs or diseases observed.  Action is only taken if the pest or pests are alive. Cast skins, or treated and killed insects, eggs or diseases are not actionable unless the overall health of the plant is compromised. An inspector may also carry an aspirator, vials of alcohol, a paintbrush, tweezers and any other supplies which facilitate taking samples of plant pests. These samples will then be submitted to our state entomologist or pathologist for identification.

 Why do I get inspected?

Plant inspections are used to accomplish a number of goals. This ensures the public is sold a quality plant that is free of diseases, insects, and weed seed. It ensures plants are identified correctly. They help protect the reputation of the nursery by ensuring they are not purchasing poor plant material.  This works as one mechanism to intercept exotic pests that may be shipped from another state or country.

 What happens if the inspector finds problems?

The affected plant material will be taken off sale until the problem has been resolved. This may include pesticide treatment, pruning, or destruction of plant material. If the pest is of quarantine significance it may need to be sampled and the plant material held off sale. The licensee has the option to wait until identification is complete, return the product to the supplier, or destroy the product.

Can I fail an inspection?

No. The inspection report does not indicate passing or failure of an inspection, it only lists the problems found and the actions needed to resolve them.

What is the threshold for insects on plants being sold?

There is no threshold. Plant material must be free from pests in order to be offered for sale. Economic thresholds are sometimes established for crop plants, these indicate the number of insect pests that can be present before yield is significantly reduced. There are no such thresholds established for ornamental plant material being offered for sale.

How often will I get inspected?

This varies depending on the activities and volume of your business. Although every attempt is made to inspect each license yearly, sometimes unforeseen circumstances prevent this. In these circumstances inspections are prioritized on the basis of the risk of introduction of exotic pests. It is also prioritized by the volume of plant material turnover at any given license.

Why can’t I put some plants on clearance sales instead of discarding them?

The New Mexico Plant Protection Act requires that only sound and healthy stock can be offered for sale.  If a plant does not meet these standards it cannot be offered for sale at any price.  However, this does not mean, for example, that a healthy flowering houseplant which is no longer flowering cannot be marked down.

How do you decide who qualifies for an exempt license?

Regulations specify the who may qualify for an exempt license. Generally, a non-profit educational, charitable or service organization may apply to the department for exempt status.

Why do I have to pay a double fee if am late in renewing my license?

The double fee is dictated by law and is the only “fine” for a license violation that the Section has.  It encourages the timely renewal of licenses. This in turn reduces the time and money required to follow up on late renewals.

I sell plants from my house, what authority do you have to inspect my residence?

The overall intent of the Plant Protection Act is consumer protection, to help prevent the spread of new plant pests.  The Act gives NMDA the authority to inspect locations which might become infested or infected with plant pests. If you are selling plants from your house, you still pose a risk of offering substandard or infested plants for sale and are subject to inspection.

Does the inspector have to get my permission to do an inspection?

No. The Plant Protection Act and the Pest Control Act both authorize NMDA to inspect any nursery, other place, or vehicle which may contain pests or host material. However, protocol requires that inspectors are to notify managers before beginning an inspection. We make every effort to accommodate the business and to avoid disruption of any kind.

Does the inspector have the authority to do inspections in areas other than on the sales floor?

Yes, the inspector has the authority to check all areas of the business which may contain pests or the hosts of pests.

More questions?
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