Under federal legislation passed by Congress, more agricultural inspectors are to be hired at US ports of entry to ensure safe, secure trade and prevent entry of pests and diseases.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill, which intends to address a shortage of US Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspectors. The officers inspect passengers, commercial vessels, trucks, aircraft and railcars at ports of entry to intercept pest and disease threats before they have a chance to harm US agriculture.
The Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act, which passed last week, authorizes $221 million over three years for CBP to hire 720 new employees. This would include 240 additional agriculture specialists and 200 new agricultural technicians each fiscal year for three years. The funding also includes an annual increase of 20 new canine teams, which detect illicit fruits, vegetables and animal products that might otherwise be missed in initial inspections.
Sara Neagu-Reed, associate director of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the bill would help address inadequate staffing of border areas and ensure additional inspections: "We've always had a lack of staffing at these ports of entry. Which means there is a higher probability that cargo shipments and product brought in by travelers could fall through the cracks, allowing invasive pests to come through, such as what happened with the European grapevine moth and the light brown apple moth."
The California Department of Food and Agriculture monitors the domestic movement of people, goods and cargo to prevent introduction of pests and diseases, and works closely with the CBP agricultural specialists, technicians and canine teams that handle international ports of entry.
On a typical day, CBP agricultural inspectors process more than 1 million passengers and 78,000 truck, rail and sea containers, the agency estimated. In 2019, CBP said its agricultural specialists seized a daily average of 4,695 prohibited plants, meats, animal byproducts and soil, and intercepted 314 insect pests a day at US ports of entry.