A top priority for the National Pork Producers Council is ensuring African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases do not enter the country. U.S. agricultural inspectors at borders and ports are the first line of defense to protect against the entrance of these diseases. However, there is a significant and dangerous shortfall in agricultural inspector funding that needs to be addressed.
On Friday, a coalition of 195 agriculture, trade and related groups led by NPPC sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, urging them to address the dangerous funding shortfall in the continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept.30. The U.S. agricultural inspectors are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees, however due to the COVID-related economic downturn and travel restrictions, there has been an unprecedented and dangerous drop in the collection of these user fees.
With travel and cargo arrivals not likely to recover next year, USDA estimates that it will require $630 million to fund these agricultural inspections through the fiscal year ending in September 2021.
"We urge Congress to ensure that the essential work of Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors continues uninterrupted. We depend on AQI to ensure that America's agriculture sector remains safe from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases. It is inconceivable that Congress would risk widespread damage to U.S. agriculture and the overall economy by not funding these inspections," the coalition wrote.
A copy of the coalition’s letter is available here.