A group of more than 80 trade associations representing the agricultural products industry wants the U.S. House to pass legislation that would fill the current shortfall of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at the nation's ports of entry.
The 2019 Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act (H.R. 4482) would authorize CBP to hire 240 agricultural specialists and 200 agriculture technicians annually until the staffing shortfall is remedied.
According to CBP's Agriculture Specialist Resource Allocation Model (AgRAM), the agency requires an additional 721 agriculture specialists to efficiently oversee the agricultural trade entering and existing the U.S.
"CBP agricultural specialists play a vital role in both trade and travel safety and prevent the introduction of harmful foreign animal diseases and exotic plant pests into the U.S.," the trade associations wrote in a recent letter to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and ranking member Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
"Diseases such as African swine fever, which has killed more than one out of every four pigs on the planet, would have a devastating impact on U.S. livestock producers, their communities and the economy if introduced to the U.S.," the trade associations warned.
While the majority of trade associations that signed the letter represent U.S. agricultural product producers, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America and Border Trade Alliance joined the call to increase the number of CBP agriculture specialists at the nation's ports of entry.
The legislation also includes a provision authorizing the annual training and assignment of 20 additional CBP agriculture canine teams, which the trade associations said "have proven valuable in detecting illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that may have otherwise been missed in initial inspections."
A similar version of the legislation (S. 2107) recently passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
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