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Protecting U.S. food and ag

Protecting U.S. food and ag

A new bill will help increase the number of inspectors and support staff at airports and other U.S. entry points

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A new piece of U.S. legislation is designed to address the staff shortage at some of the country’s entry points.

Last month, the Senate passed the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019. The bill authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire, train and assign 240 new ag specialists, 20 canine teams and 200 ag technicians each year until airports, seaports and other entry points are adequately staffed.

CBP processes about US$7.7 billion of imported goods on a typical day, the border agency says. Border agents also discover an average of 319 pests and 4,552 plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil materials daily that require quarantine.

The CBP, however, is short around 700 ag inspectors, so getting this bill to President Trump’s desk is important to keep America’s agri-food industry safe.

“Agriculture is a critical economic driver in Michigan and across the country, but longstanding shortages of agricultural inspectors limits (CBP’s) ability to prevent pests, diseases and other dangers from entering our country and puts production at risk,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said in a statement.

Farm groups are pleased with the Senate’s decision to support the bill.

“It’s important for swine, for beef, for chicken (and) for all the products we produce in agriculture that we have control of what comes into the country,” Tim Chancellor, president of Nebraska Pork Producers Association, told WNAX.

Peters introduced the bipartisan bill in the Senate in July with support from fellow Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts from Kansas.

The bill needs to pass a vote in the House before it can receive the president’s signature.

Farms.com has reached out to crop organizations for comment on the bill.

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