Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act Heads to President’s Desk
The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act is heading to President Trump’s desk after being approved by the House of Representatives on February 10, 2020, and the Senate in October 2019. “I thank my colleagues, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Thompson, Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson and Senator Peters for their help in ensuring passage of this critical legislation,” said Representative Filemon Vela (D-TX), who introduced the bill into the House. The bipartisan bill authorizes 240 new Agricultural Specialist and 200 Agricultural Technicians until staffing shortages are resolved, to prevent foreign animal diseases, such as the African swine flu, from entering the United States. H.R.4482 also authorizes 20 new agricultural canine teams to prevent harmful pests from entering the U.S.
“Agriculture is critical to the security of our nation,” said Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) in a press release, “As threats of African Swine Fever, bird flu, and other crippling agricultural epidemics sweep across the globe, it’s imperative that we take the necessary steps to protect America’s food supply and agricultural industries.” Representative Josh Harder (R-CA), House Agricultural Committee member, shared an example of why this bill is so important in a press release, “The nutria swamp rat made a sudden reappearance in California after being gone for 50 years and it’s wreaking havoc. We need to get more personnel on the job to protect our ag economy and wildlife.”
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the act and considers it a top priority. "For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for more agricultural inspectors at our borders," says NPPC president David Herring to Feedstuff, "The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection have done much to mitigate risk to animal disease, but we must remain vigilant. Today's vote represents a tremendous victory for our farmers, consumers and the American economy.”
Currently, there is a shortage of over 700 inspectors across the county. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) work in unison to ensure the safety and security of agricultural goods imported into the U.S. The specialist inspects passengers, commercial vessels, trucks, aircraft, and railcars at U.S. ports of entry for damaging imports and invasive species. The inspectors process more than 1 million passengers and 78,000 truck, rail, and sea containers carrying goods worth approximately $7.2 billion on a given day.