House passes border bill, clearing way to president
The House on Feb. 10 passed a bill authorizing funding for hiring more customs and border agriculture inspectors.
The House passed the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 under suspension of the rules. It had already passed the Senate and will now go to President Donald Trump.
A joint press release welcoming passage of the bill was issued by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Filemon Vela, D-Texas, Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chairman Jim Costa, D-Calif., and committee members Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and California Democrats Salud Carbajal, Josh Harder, and TJ Cox.
“I know how vital CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) personnel and the work they perform are for the protection and growth of our trade and agricultural sectors,” said Vela.
“Texas farms alone sold $24.9 billion in agricultural products in 2017, but those economic gains are threatened when our international ports of entry do not have the resources to mitigate pest and disease threats, like the African swine fever.
“The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes the hiring of 240 new agriculture specialists and 200 agriculture technicians until staffing shortages are resolved. It also provides for the assignment of 20 agriculture canine teams to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and foreign animal disease from entering the U.S.
“I am honored to have introduced the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives, with support from both sides of the aisle, and to have worked in partnership with Sen. (Gary) Peters (D-Mich.) to ensure this legislation gets signed into law.”
“I’ve long raised the issue of staffing levels at the border. It is critical that we have enough CBP agriculture inspectors, specialists and canine teams to protect our rural communities and our economy from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases,” said Peterson.
“I represent a border district, where agriculture is a top industry, and The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act authorizes the crucial resources to help protect districts like mine. Rural America can’t afford another disaster and we need to do everything we can to prevent these pests and diseases from impacting our farm and rural economies.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, also issued a joint release praising the House action.
“The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 will ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation’s borders by authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional inspectors, support staff and K-9 teams to fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry,” the senators said.
“This is the result of working together in a bipartisan fashion — a safer and more secure American food supply,” said Roberts.
“This legislation strengthens the agricultural inspector workforce at our borders, giving much-needed and requested backup to the folks helping keep our food supply safe. The Senate passed the bill in October, and I applaud the House for acting. I urge President Trump to swiftly sign this legislation into law.”
“Our farms and crops are under increasing threats from invasive pests and diseases,” said Stabenow.
“That’s why agricultural inspections at our borders are critically important to food safety and the protection of our farmers and consumers.”
“Our country faces a shortage of agricultural inspectors that could leave our agricultural industry vulnerable to diseases, pests, and other threats that could devastate our economy and compromise the health and safety of millions of Americans,” said Peters.
“I’m pleased the House passed my commonsense bill that will help facilitate secure and efficient international trade at ports of entry, and ensure farmers in Michigan and across the country can continue to raise the highest quality products.”
“Hundreds of billions of dollars in goods pass through Texas’ ports of entry annually,” said Cornyn. “This law will boost the number of inspectors safeguarding the safety and integrity of goods and products coming across our border, which will benefit all Americans.” ❖