By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media, NGFA
The NGFA joined more than 80 feed and agriculture group sin support of a bill that would authorize funding to hire additional Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel needed to conduct agriculture quarantine inspections at U.S. international ports of entry.
In a Jan. 22 letter to leaders of the House Committee on Homeland Security, the groups noted that "foreign pests and diseases cost the American economy tens of billions of dollars annually ... CBP employees perform critically important agricultural inspections every day at the nation's ports of entry."
The legislation - dubbed the Protecting America's Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 (H.R. 4482) - would authorize CBP to hire 240 agriculture specialists and 200 agriculture technicians each year until the current staffing shortage is remedied.
"CBP agricultural specialists play a vital role in both trade and travel safety, and prevent the introduction of harmful foreign animal diseases and exotic plant pests," into the United States, the letter stated.
"Diseases such as African Swine Fever, which has killed more than one out of every four pigs on the planet, would have a devastating impact on U.S. livestock producers, their communities, and the economy if introduced into the U.S."
The bill also authorizes the training and assignment each year of 20 new agricultural canine teams.
These agriculture detector dogs are used to detect illicit fruits, vegetables, and animal products that may have otherwise been missed in initial inspections, the groups said.
The Senate approved its version of the bill (S. 2107) by unanimous consent in October.
The letter urges that the House Committee on Homeland Security quickly discharge the bill without amendment and push for its swift passage on the House floor.