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Bipartisan Bill Protecting Food, Ag Industry Signed into Law
USAgNet - 03/05/2020

President Donald Trump has signed into law a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, both of Michigan; Pat Roberts of Kanss; and John Cornyn of Texas 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 ensures safe and secure trade of agricultural goods across our nation's borders by authorizing 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 crossing. 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 serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Roberts and Stabenow are chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, respectively. U.S. Representative Filemon Vela Jr. of Texas introduced the companion legislation in the House.

"Michigan's valuable agricultural industry depends on the safe and secure flow of goods and people through our nation's border crossings," said Peters. "That secure travel is made possible by the hardworking border security professionals charged with safeguarding our state against diseases, pests, and other threats that could devastate our farm economy and compromise the health and safety of millions of Americans. I'm grateful that my bipartisan bill has been signed into law, and I will continue working to secure our borders and protect Michigan farmers and producers."

"I'm proud that our bipartisan bill is being signed into law to support the agricultural inspectors serving at our borders," said Roberts. "The safety and security of our nation's agriculture and food supply is more important than ever, and I thank President Trump for swiftly signing this legislation into law."

"Our farms and crops are under increasing threats from invasive pests and diseases," said Stabenow. "I'm pleased we will now be able to hire more agricultural inspectors at our borders to protect farmers, consumers, and the safety of our food supply."

"Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars in goods pass through Texas' land, air, and sea ports of entry," said Cornyn. "This law will increase the number of inspectors safeguarding the safety and integrity of goods and products coming across our border, which will benefit not just Texans but all Americans."

"Texas relies on the trade and agricultural sectors. That is why introducing The Protecting America's Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives was a priority for me. I am honored to have worked with Senator Peters to get this bill signed into law and thank Senators Roberts, Stabenow, and Cornyn for their leadership," said Vela. "We worked across the aisle, through both chambers, to ensure Agriculture Specialists and Technicians at our ports of entry are adequately staffed to carry out critical Agriculture Quarantine Inspections that safeguard America's agriculture sector from pests and foreign animal diseases. I know there is more work to be done and we will continue to work to ensure that our ports of entry have the resources they need to maintain and improve the safe flow of goods."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and CBP work together to facilitate 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 U.S. 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 Protecting America's Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 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.

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