Congress needs to authorize about $630 million to keep the U.S. ag sector safe, the organizations say
By Diego Flammini
More than 150 organizations from the ag sector and beyond are calling on federal lawmakers to release money to help border inspectors intercept problematic ag products coming into the U.S.
Industry groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and National Milk Producers Federation signed a June 29 letter addressed to members of the House and Senate appropriations committees asking them to authorize funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Quarantine Inspection (AQI) at ports of entry into the country.
“CBP and USDA agriculture inspectors are our first line of defense to ensure African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases remain outside the United States,” Howard Roth, president of the NPPC, said in a statement. “Lapsed vigilance of these inspections would have devastating consequences for U.S. pork producers and all of agriculture, the backbone of the American economy.”
That’s why the letter signees are requesting that Congress release $630 million to ensure the ag inspections can continue going forward.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) collects AQI user fees from commercial planes, boat and truck operators and transfers those funds to the Department of Homeland Security to help pay the salaries of CBP specialists, technicians and canine teams that detect issues with ag goods entering the U.S.
These fees range from $3.96 per airline passenger to $825 per commercial cargo vessel.
However, because the global pandemic caused the grounding of planes and other travel and transportation plans to be postponed or cancelled, APHIS hasn’t been able to collect the necessary user fees to fund AQI.
Providing the proper funding amount will help CBP inspectors do their jobs and keep the U.S. ag industry free from foreign issues.
“We depend on AQI to ensure that America’s agriculture sector remains safe from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases,” the letter states. “It is inconceivable that Congress would risk widespread damage to U.S. agriculture and the overall economy by not funding these inspections.”
Farms.com has reached out to ag groups for comment.