Washington, D.C. – Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed bipartisan legislation addressing the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect our nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border:
“Agriculture is critical to the security of our nation. 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.
I commend my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for passing such important legislation providing for the security of American agriculture.”
S. 2107- 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 canine 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 canine teams.
The USDA and CBP work together to facilitate the safe and secure entry of agricultural goods into the U.S. The program’s Agricultural Specialists and canine 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.
China, the number one pork producer in the world, lost half of its 440 million hog population due to the African Swine Fever.
According to China’s Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs, an outbreak of H5N1 avian flu virus has occurred on a farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang city killing 4,500 of 7,850 chickens. Local authorities have culled 17,828 poultry entirely in the region.