A bipartisan bill that was recently introduced is seeking to increase the number of ag inspectors at American ports of entry as a means of bolstering security efforts. Introduced by U.S. Senators Gary Peters, Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and Debbie Stabenow, the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 will authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional inspectors to help ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods.
“Every day, millions of pounds of produce, meat and other agricultural goods enter the United States through our nation’s ports of entry,” Senator Peters said in a statement. “Agricultural inspectors are responsible for ensuring these goods move efficiently across our borders while safeguarding against harmful pests, diseases and even potential bioterrorism attacks. This bill will help ensure we have enough inspectors to secure America’s domestic food supply and agricultural industries.”
The bill would authorize the annual hiring of 240 Agricultural Specialists and 200 Agricultural Technicians per year until the current workforce shortage is adequately addressed. The legislation is also calling for the training and assignment of 20 new canine teams a year to enhance inspection efforts. The bill authorizes supplemental appropriations each year to help support the work of the agriculture specialists, technicians and canine teams.
Lawmakers emphasized the need for additional ag inspectors in light of CBP estimates indicating a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors. The legislation is being supported by several agricultural groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), the National Pork Producers Council, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.
“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 NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn. “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.”