(Aug. 28) Psst! Hey, APHIS! Yeah, I’m talking to you, pal. You’re getting drubbed out here among all the plants you’re supposed to protect.

I mean, you are the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, aren’t you? Your whole reason for existence, after all, is to prevent critters and such from ravaging this great nation’s agricultural bounty, right?

So why do you want to open the door to the Medfly?

Ah, yes. We’re talking about that whole Spanish clementine thing and your proposed rulemaking that would allow them back into our country less than a year after they were banned. Perhaps you remember. Multiple shipments of Spanish clementines to several states were found to be infested with as many critters as there are dorks at a Star Trek convention.

You’re in love with Spain, aren’t you, APHIS? Did the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which wants to get back in her good graces, set you up?

So before you open our borders to a possible pest infestation and before your agency is renamed Capt. Codependent, let me give you some relationship advice, APHIS. I know a little something about loving a Spaniard too much. And while I’ll grudgingly admit this issue may be bigger than my quest to win back my ex-girlfriend, I should point out that you don’t seem to be acting like it.

Sara, my ex, is Spanish. She’s no clementine, but she’s a darling.

I want her back more than anything. But if there’s one thing I’ve discovered in the past year, it’s that doing too much for the one you love doesn’t work. Desperation may not repel fruit flies, but it sure does shoo off girls. And it gives countries the chance to walk all over you in trade agreements.

Who knows, though? Perhaps we should let Spanish clementines back into the country, and when fruit flies turn up again, we could try smothering them with love. Come on, APHIS, growers and scientists are describing the Medfly as the foot-and-mouth disease of fresh produce.

All I see when I look at this proposed rule making to allow Spanish clementines back into the country is a lovelorn dork trying to win the attention of a prom queen by doing her homework.

So while you’re doing her homework, try doing your own. I think you’ll see that you’re giving Spanish growers fewer restrictions than you put on U.S. growers. I think you’ll see you’re not putting enough controls down to guarantee pest-free Spanish fruit. And I think you’ll see the proposed rule to allow Spanish clementines back into our country isn’t good enough.

I hope you were truly listening to the grower community in mid-August when you held the two comment sessions. Did you hear the unified voice of the various growers, commodity groups and officials? Did you notice in California that two state secretaries of agriculture, a congressman and aides to at least three more legislators turned out to plead with you not to reopen our borders to Spanish Medflies — er, clementines?

Now, there are those skeptics who would suggest that U.S. growers’ opposition to Spanish clementines all comes down to sour grapes from an industry that can’t compete with a foreign product, in this case an explosively sweet fruit. And I imagine I heard a guffaw or two from members of the citrus industry last winter when Spanish clementines were banned. Maybe even a chortle.

But the fact remains that the growing community has a point. The Medfly threatens not only citrus, but 250 other commodities in this county, commodities that don’t even compete against the clementine.

On top of that, countries that receive imported fruit don’t much care to have that fruit laced with a pest that could damage or destroy their own crops. That means our own customers overseas — like the Japanese, for example, who are normally so tolerant and undemanding in their demands for imports — aren’t going to be particularly accommodating if we get the Medfly.

Do you remember the Medfly outbreak in Ventura County, Calif., in the mid-1990s? How many millions did it cost to eradicate? How many Japanese agriculture officials were over here viewing our groves and ports by helicopter?

Grow a backbone, APHIS. The Spanish need the U.S. as a market more than the U.S. needs sweetness in the form of clementines. Use science to determine how to guarantee that fruit reaching our shores is safe. Then tell Spain that she’ll have to meet those requirements to do business with us.

She’ll respect you in the morning.