House Ag Subcommittee: Stopping Foreign Pests From Entering

Published online: Oct 03, 2007 AgPress
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Subcommittee Reviews Performance of Border Inspections Responsible for Interception of Foreign Pests and Diseases WASHINGTON - The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture held a hearing to examine the joint performance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in protecting U.S. agriculture from foreign pests and diseases. Congressman Dennis Cardoza of California is Chairman of the Subcommittee. "Stopping foreign pests and prohibited agricultural products from entering the US might not be as sexy as stopping terrorists, weapons or drugs but it is certainly just as important," said Chairman Cardoza during the hearing. "These are six and eight-legged terrorists that can wreak havoc on our nation's agricultural industry, costing billions of taxpayer dollars in eradication efforts and decimate our ability to access new export markets." "It is imperative that our Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Service is performing at an optimal level," said Ranking Member Randy Neugebauer of Texas. "Since the transfer of inspection responsibilities to Homeland Security, we have seen firsthand the subpar performance. The question before us now is whether agriculture is coming out ahead in this transition of inspection services to Homeland Security. If it is not, this Committee has a responsibility to the American people to make sure agriculture is fully protected." Until March 1, 2003, the agricultural quarantine inspection (AQI) program was under APHIS. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred that responsibility from APHIS to the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection. The Agriculture Committee's Investigator, the Government Accountability Office, and the Homeland Security Department's Office of the Inspector General all introduced testimony based on separate reports they conducted examining the effectiveness of the AQI program since the transfer and whether it is being prioritized under CBP. A second panel of witnesses representing states with high volume of fresh crop and horticulture production testified about the importance of border inspections and the health and economic consequences if foreign pests and diseases escape examination and are brought into the domestic supply chain. The opening statements of the witnesses are available on the Committee website at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website at a later date.