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Bill aiming to protect agricultural industry passes House – News – Monroe News – Monroe, Michigan

The U.S. House has passed a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, and others to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors.

The U.S. House has passed a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, and others to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industry at the border.

The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 will ensure safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across the nation’s borders by authorizing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional inspectors, support staff and K-9 teams to fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry.

Michigan is home to two of the nation’s busiest border crossings: the Detroit-Windsor crossing and the Blue Water Bridge. Every day, approximately 300,000 people and $910 million in trade cross the Northern Border, which is the largest bilateral flow of goods and people in the world, Peters said.

The bill is supported by a broad coalition of groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Agri-Business Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Pork Producers Association.

The ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters applauded the House passage of the bill.

“Our country faces a shortage of agricultural inspectors that could leave our agricultural industry vulnerable to diseases, pests and other threats that could devastate our economy and compromise the health and safety of millions of Americans,” Peters said in a press release. “I’m pleased the House passed my commonsense bill that will help facilitate secure and efficient international trade at ports of entry, and ensure farmers in Michigan and across the country can continue to raise the highest quality products.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and CBP work together to oversee safe and secure importation of agricultural goods into the U. S. The program’s Agricultural Specialists and K-9 units conduct inspections of passengers, commercial vessels, trucks, aircraft and railcars at ports of entry to protect health and safety by preventing the entry of harmful goods and invasive species that may pose a threat to American food and agriculture.

On a typical day, those inspectors process more than 1 million passengers and 78,000 truck, rail and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $7.2 billion. According to CBP estimates, there is a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors across the country.

The act authorizes the annual hiring of 240 Agricultural Specialists a year until the workforce shortage is filled, and 200 Agricultural Technicians a year to carry out administrative and support functions. The bill also authorizes the training and assignment of 20 new K-9 teams a year, which have proven valuable in detecting illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that may have otherwise been missed in initial inspections. Finally, the bill authorizes supplemental appropriations each year to pay for the activities of the agriculture specialists, technicians and K-9 teams.

Peters introduced the legislation with U. S. Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and John Cornyn, R TX. Roberts and Stabenow are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. U. S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr., D- Texas, introduced a companion legislation in the House.

Michigan Farm Bureau applauded the senators for introducing the bill, said John Kran, National Legislative Counsel for the bureau.

“Invasive species like spotted wing drosophila and the brown marmorated stink bug are just two examples of non- native pests that have created havoc for Michigan farmers over the last few years,” Kran said. “This bill will expand and enhance border inspections and provide farmers with another level of protection from foreign pests that negatively impact both farmers and the consumers they feed.”

CBP’s agricultural inspectors are the first line of defense against imported products that may contain diseases, invasive species, or other threats that pose a multi-billion dollar risk to Michigan’s agricultural markets, said Jim Byrum, outgoing president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.

“The act will help reduce this risk to the agricultural economy in Michigan and across the country by addressing longstanding shortages at our nation’s ports of entry,” Byrum said. “We are supportive of this bill and applaud Sen. Peters for his leadership on this issue.”

Ensuring the safe and secure trade of food and agriculture across our borders is critical to the nation’s economy, said John Drake, executive director of supply chain policy at the Chamber of Commerce.

“(CBP) inspectors play a critical role in preventing the spread of dangerous pests, invasive plants and animals, and diseases that can cause significant harm to the U. S. economy,” Drake said. “While the trade volume of food and agriculture is increasing, CBP staffing is having a hard time keeping pace. This bill would help address the problem by enabling CBP to hire critical workers to safeguard our borders and economy, and protect agricultural and livestock producers and the public.”


Online: Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019

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