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Trump signs bill to add ag inspectors at US ports of entry

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed into law a bipartisan bill that will strengthen the country’s protections against African swine fever (ASF).

Pigs in a trailer ready to be transported to the slaughterhouse in Canada
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African swine fever protection measures get a boost from bipartisan bill

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed into law a bipartisan bill that will strengthen the country’s protections against African swine fever (ASF).

The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire additional inspectors, support staff and K-9 teams to fully staff America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry.

“I’m pleased that the president has signed our legislation to ensure we have enough resources to protect our border from African swine fever and other animal diseases,” said U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who introduced the bill in the House. “We’ve seen diseases such as African swine fever destroy hog populations throughout the world. An outbreak in Iowa, which leads the nation in producing nearly one-third of all U.S. hogs, would be devastating to an industry that is an economic driver and job creator across our state.”

According to CBP estimates, there is a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors across the country. The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes the annual hiring of 240 agricultural specialists per year until the workforce shortage is filled, and 200 agricultural technicians per year to carry out administrative and support functions. The bill also authorizes the training and assignment of 20 new K-9 teams per 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 K-9 teams, a Senate press release said.

“Our farms and crops are under increasing threats from invasive pests and diseases,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), who co-sponsored the bill in the Senate. “I’m pleased we will now be able to hire more agricultural inspectors at our borders to protect farmers, consumers, and the safety of our food supply.”

The bill was introduced in the House of Representative in September 2019 and passed unanimously in the House in February after advancing in the Senate in October.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) applauded the bill.

Preventing the spread of African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases to the United States is our top priority,” said David Herring, NPPC president. “We appreciate all that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are doing to strengthen biosecurity at our borders. To further safeguard American agriculture, we need additional agriculture inspectors at our sea and airports. This essential legislation will help address the current inspection shortfall, reduce the risk of ASF and other foreign animal diseases, and protect the food supply for U.S. consumers.”

View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.

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