Trump signs ag border inspection bill
President Donald Trump today signed an agricultural border inspection bill authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional inspectors, support staff and canine teams to fully staff U.S. airports, seaports and land ports of entry.
A series of lawmakers put out news releases taking credit for the bill, known as the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ranking member Gary Peters, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who introduced the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, who introduced the bill in the House, said in a joint release that it addresses the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industry at the border.
“Michigan’s valuable agricultural industry depends on the safe and secure flow of goods and people through our nation’s border crossings,” said Peters.
“That secure travel is made possible by the hardworking border security professionals charged with safeguarding our state against diseases, pests, and other threats that could devastate our farm economy and compromise the health and safety of millions of Americans. I’m grateful that my bipartisan bill has been signed into law, and I will continue working to secure our borders and protect Michigan farmers and producers.”
“We’ve seen how a variety of diseases can devastate agricultural communities around the world,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
“Now is the time to be proactive. Additional agricultural inspectors and resources along our border will continue to make safety a top priority. This is great news for our farmers and consumers. President Trump said he would stand with our farmers and he has once again demonstrated that by signing this bill into law.
“Texas relies on the trade and agricultural sectors,” Vela said. “We worked across the aisle, through both chambers, to ensure agriculture specialists and technicians at our ports of entry are adequately staffed to carry out critical agriculture quarantine inspections that safeguard America’s agriculture sector from pests and foreign animal diseases. I know there is more work to be done and we will continue to work to ensure that our ports of entry have the resources they need to maintain and improve the safe flow of goods.”
The bill authorizes the hiring of 240 agricultural specialists a year until the workforce shortage is filled, and 200 agricultural technicians a year to carry out administrative and support functions.
The bill also authorizes the training and assignment of 20 new dog teams a year, which detect illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that may have otherwise been missed in initial inspections. Finally, the bill authorizes supplemental appropriations each year to pay for the activities of the agriculture specialists, technicians and canine teams.
Private groups also issued statements praising the bill.
“Ensuring the safe and secure trade of food and agriculture across our borders is critical to our nation’s economy,” said John Drake, executive director of supply chain policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors play a critical role in preventing the spread of dangerous pests, invasive plants and animals, and diseases that can cause significant harm to the U.S. economy,” Drake said.
“While the trade volume of food and agriculture is increasing, CBP staffing is having a hard time keeping pace. This bill would help address the problem by enabling CBP to hire critical workers to safeguard our borders and economy, and protect agricultural and livestock producers and the public.”
“This bipartisan legislation would help fill a critical gap at our country’s ports of entry,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
“Agriculture specialists, technicians and canine teams root out, identify and stop invasive pests and other dangers to our nation’s farms and green spaces,” Reardon said.
“NTEU strongly supports this bipartisan bill and thanks Sen. Peters and Sen. Roberts for taking action to increase the numbers of employees at our ports who serve as the last defense against the accidental or deliberate introduction into our country of pests and plants that do not belong here.”
“Invasive species have been estimated to cost the US economy more than $120 billion annually, with more than half of that amount representing damage to American agriculture,” said Barb Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
“NASDA strongly supports funding for additional staff and canine units to enhance and maintain a framework designed to protect our nation’s food and agriculture through education, research, prevention, monitoring and control,” Glenn said. “We thank Sen. Gary Peters and Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts for introducing this bill.”
“Preventing the spread of African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases to the United States is our top priority,” said David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council.
“We appreciate all that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are doing to strengthen biosecurity at our borders. To further safeguard American agriculture, we need additional agriculture inspectors at our sea and airports. This essential legislation will help address the current inspection shortfall, reduce the risk of ASF and other foreign animal diseases, and protect the food supply for U.S. consumers.”
“With rising volumes of passengers and cargo at our nation’s airports, fully staffed CBP ports-of-entry are crucial to facilitate the travel and trade that spurs the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International — North America.
“We thank senators Peters, Roberts, Cornyn, and Stabenow for advancing this important legislation to ensure there are a sufficient number of CBP agriculture specialists available to safely and efficiently process these ever-increasing volumes of cross-border shipments.”
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The House passed S.4054, the Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020, by voice vote.