WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation authorizing funds for additional US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents, canine teams and other resources aimed at preventing the introduction of animal diseases and pests into the United States.
The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 provides funding to hire, train and assign 240 new Agricultural Specialists above attrition levels each year until the total number is equal to or sustains staffing requirements. The bill also authorizes CBP to hire, train and assign 200 new Agriculture Technicians every year until staffing targets are met. In addition, the bill provides funding for 20 agriculture canine teams each year for the first three fiscal years following the enactment of the bill.
“It’s critical that we ensure there are enough resources to protect our borders from animal diseases,” Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) said. “We’ve seen diseases such as African Swine Fever destroy hog populations throughout the world. Iowa leads the nation in pork production, raising nearly one-third of US hogs. An outbreak here at home would be devastating to Iowa’s pork industry, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state. We must do all that we can to prevent an outbreak and I’m proud to have helped introduce this important legislation and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
Organizations representing agriculture industry interests urged lawmakers to address staffing shortages in the agriculture inspection program because it is a crucial component of protecting the US food and agriculture supply from pests and diseases such as African Swine Fever.
“This is a positive step to help prevent foreign animal diseases, including African Swine Fever, from entering the US. Our Iowa congressional delegation worked together in a bipartisan way to move this bill through both the Senate and House. It is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature,” said Mike Paustian, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and a pig farmer from Walcott, Iowa. “Pig farmers across the country tip their hats to the good work done by the US Dept. of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to mitigate our risk of foreign animal disease, but we must remain vigilant. Today’s vote represents a tremendous victory for farmers, consumers and the American economy.”
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) also applauded congressional leaders for passing the bill.
“For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for more agricultural inspectors at our borders,” said NPPC President David Herring. “The US Dept. 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.”
Herring added that NPPC will continue to advocate for a vaccine bank for foot-and-mouth disease. The US doesn’t have enough vaccine to quickly contain and eradicate an FMD outbreak, NPPC said.