Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Protect America’s Domestic Food Supply and Agricultural Industries
Oct 28, 2019
WASHINGTON – Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border. The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 would ensure the safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation’s borders by authorizing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional inspectors, support staff and canine teams to fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry.
“Americans depend on access to safe, quality agricultural products every day. Enhanced inspectors along our border will help prevent the spread of diseases like African swine fever which has devastated the pork industry in China. Safety is our top priority and additional agricultural inspectors will work to protect both farmers and consumers,” Grassley said.
Additional cosponsors include Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
The USDA and CBP work together to facilitate the safe and secure entry of agricultural goods into the U.S. The program’s agricultural specialists and canine units conduct inspections of foreign passengers, commercial vessels, trucks, aircraft and railcars at U.S. ports of entry to protect health and safety by preventing the entry of harmful goods and invasive species that may pose a threat to American food and agriculture. On a typical day, those inspectors process more than 1 million passengers and 78,000 truck, rail and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $7.2 billion. According to CBP estimates, there is a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors across the country.
The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes the annual 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 canine teams a year, which have proven valuable in detecting 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.