Last month, the U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Michigan Senators Gary Peters (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D), along with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 would authorize hiring more personnel to staff ports of entry into the U.S.
Sen. Peters is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and every day he’s thinking about securing the borders, and that includes agriculture.
“From an agricultural perspective and from a food perspective, that is a big part of security,” he said. “Right now our agricultural inspectors have a great deal on their plate. We’re probably short 800 inspectors across the country.”
The bill would authorize hiring more than 200 ag technicians, and 20 canine teams a year. Peters says on a daily basis, more than 4,000 prohibited plant materials and animal products and 300 animal pests and diseases are stopped at the border.
“There’s nothing more precise or sophisticated than a dog’s nose when it comes to ferreting out material that may have been coming across the border that should not come across,” said Peters. “This is about strengthening our border, and in order to strengthen our borders, you need to train people on the border in all fields.”
While Peters is on the Homeland Security Committee, he recognizes that border security is imperative to Michigan’s agriculture industry.
“[Agriculture] is a major employer in our state,” he said. “We’ve got to protect that, and to protect it, we have to do it on a variety of fronts. But in my capacity as the ranking member on the [Senate] Homeland Security, it’s about making sure bad stuff is not coming across the border that would impact our industry.”