President Donald Trump recently signed the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, which will expand and improve border inspections of agricultural products. Introduced by U.S. Senator Gary Peters’, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the bipartisan bill will authorize U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional inspectors and other support staff. The new legislation will also allow additional K-9 teams to be deployed in fully staffing U.S. ports of entry to secure the transportation of agricultural goods.
“Preventing the spread of African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases to the United States is our top priority,” President of the National Pork Producers Council David Herring said in a news release. “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.”
The law authorizes the annual hiring of an additional 240 Agricultural Specialists and 200 Agricultural Technicians for administrative and support functions. The new legislation also calls for an additional 20 K-9 teams to be trained and deployed. K-9 units have proved valuable in identifying produce and animal products that had not been detected during initial inspections. Agricultural Specialists and K-9 units inspect passengers, commercial containers and vehicles, aircraft and railcars at American ports of entry. The bill also authorizes supplemental appropriations on an annual basis to help support activities to bolster border inspections.
CBP estimates that there is currently a shortage of about 700 inspectors in the U.S. Border inspectors are responsible for processing an average of 1 million passengers and nearly 80,000 containers carrying $7.2 billion worth of goods on a daily basis.