Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate to address the current shortage of agriculture inspectors at the border.

Michigan Democrats Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow along with Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Cornyn of Texas introduced the bill to increase the focus on agriculture inspectors at U.S. borders who “prevent the intentional or unintentional entry of harmful plants, food, animals and goods into the United States,” according to a release announcing the bill. The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 would give the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the ability to hire additional inspectors to work at the different ports of entry throughout the nation.

“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,” Cornyn said.

If passed, the act would authorize an annual hiring of 240 CBP agricultural specialists each year until a shortage is filled, and 200 agricultural technicians each year for administration and support. It also supports the training and use of 20 new canine teams each year that are used to detect flaws or hazards not detected on initial inspection. 

Barb Glenn, CEO of National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), said, “NASDA strongly supports funding for additional staff and canine units to enhance and maintain a framework designed to protect our nation’s food and agriculture through education, research, prevention, monitoring and control.”

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