Washington D.C. – The National Treasury Employees Union today endorsed bipartisan legislation to hire 240 new Agriculture Specialists for the severely understaffed ports of entry around the country.
Adequate staffing levels for Customs and Border Protection are crucial to shielding American consumers and the U.S. agriculture industry from harmful species and pests transported by international passengers or through cargo.
According to CBP’s own workload staffing model that considers volume, processing time and risk, the agency has determined it needs 695 additional Agriculture Specialists to reach the overall staffing target of 3,148 personnel in this critical role. Agriculture Specialists are currently stationed at 186 of the 328 land, air and sea ports of entry but also travel to others as needed.
The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) would authorize the new hires every year until the staffing shortages are eliminated. It also provides for the hiring of up to 200 Agriculture Technicians and 20 new canine teams.
“The CBP workforce is grateful that Congress is taking steps to fully staff the ports with professionals trained to spot invasive species of plants and insects and quarantine them before they harm our nation’s food supply,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “This legislation is sorely needed to keep the ports running smoothly and protect our farmers and growers.”
On an average day, CBP processes 1.8 million passengers and pedestrians and 81,000 truck, rail and sea containers. On average, they seize 4,370 prohibited plant materials and/or animal products and 319 agriculture pests every day.
‘The workload is immense and labor intensive, so we urge Congress to pass the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act and provide the funding to initiate the new hiring as soon as possible,” Reardon said.
The bill also was endorsed by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and many other state and national agriculture organizations.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments, including 27,000 at CBP.