Four U.S. senators have introduced legislation to boost the number of federal employees inspecting food at the borders.
Gary Peters, D-Mich., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., recently introduced the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, to “address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect out food supply and agricultural industries at the border,” according to a news release.
The bill allows 240 more Customs and Border Protection agricultural specialists to be hired each year “until the workforce shortage is filled,” and 200 agricultural technicians a year for administrative and support functions. It also authorizes the addition annually of 20 more canine teams — which can detect illicit fruit, vegetable and animal products on travelers entering the U.S.
The new personnel would be assigned to sea and land ports of entry, as well as airports.
Sen. Peters said millions of pounds of produce, meat and other agricultural products enter the U.S. every day.
“Agricultural inspectors are responsible for ensuring these goods move efficiently across our borders while safeguarding against harmful pests, diseases and even potential bioterrorism attacks,” Peters said in the release. “This bill will help ensure we have enough inspectors to secure America’s domestic food supply and agricultural industries and protect the health and safety of people in Michigan and across the country.”
“Hundreds of billions of dollars in goods pass through Texas’ ports of entry each year,” Cornyn said in the release. “Ensuring the safety and integrity of goods and products coming across our border is a priority, and this legislation would help alleviate the shortage of agricultural inspectors tasked with this important job.”
“Invasive species have been estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $120 billion annually, with more than half of that amount representing damage to American agriculture,” Barb Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said in the release.