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Senators introduce bill to fund more Ag border inspectors

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With the threat of foreign animal diseases and the concerns over tainted fruits, vegetables, and grains, the United States must be able to cover its bases to protect our food supply. The problem is we are short-staffed on Ag border inspectors trained to do the job. A bipartisan bill which has been introduced in the Senate is aimed at relieving the strain.

Back in March, there was a seizure of almost one million pounds of smuggled pork coming from China. With the devastating effects of African Swine Fever, it is a miracle this shipment was headed off. The agents tasked with finding these meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains need about 700 more workers. National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom highlighted this need.

In the Senate, Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at covering this shortfall. The Protecting American’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 will help bring on 240 more Ag specialists, 200 support staff, and 20 canine teams. The canine teams’ funds are generated by airline user fees according to Dr. Wagstom.

Chairman Roberts says, “Every day, millions of pounds of produce, meat, and other agricultural good enter the U.S. through our ports of entry. Ag Inspectors are responsible for ensuring that the goods move efficiently across our borders while safeguarding against harmful pests, diseases, and even potential bioterrorism attacks.” Ranking Member Stabenow said, “It’s critical that we address the shortage of agricultural specialists and hire qualified staff to safeguard our food and our farms.”

This legislation has the backing of NPPC, the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Treasury Employees Union and others.