USDA's Specialized Border Inspectors to Reinforce Security

Jul 11, 2002

House Ag Committee writes proposal to safeguard heartland and homeland

July 11, 2002 – Responding to President Bush's call enlisting all available federal resources to protect the nation within a new Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture today recommended the means for using a specialized group of USDA inspectors for homeland security at U.S. ports of entry, maintaining protection for rural agriculture against imported animal and plant diseases. USDA research facilities at Plum Island Animal Disease Center are also transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security.

The Agriculture Committee proposal would move specialized border inspection and related enforcement functions of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

"The Agriculture Committee's recommendation responds to the President's call for enlisting all available federal resources, while maintaining vigilance by these specialized inspectors at our ports of entry," said Chairman Larry Combest (R-Texas). "Protecting the health of America's rural heartland is at the heart of homeland security."

"Protection of our nation's agricultural resources from foreign pests and diseases is a hugely important mission, regardless of whether those threats are intentionally or unintentionally introduced," said Charlie Stenholm, the Committee's Ranking Member. "I hope our efforts today will help to improve the work of the new Department of Homeland Security to make sure that our food quality, value and security remains the best in the world."

APHIS inspectors now work across the country at more than 186 points of entry to screen against imported pests or diseases that could threaten the U.S. food supply by infecting rural crops or livestock. President Bush's proposal would unify border and transportation security of many federal agencies, including USDA's agricultural inspection program. A select committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has called on each Committee in the House to forward recommendations for H.R. 5005, which would create a Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for securing our nation's borders and transportation systems to prevent the entry of terrorists while ensuring the speedy flow of legitimate traffic. The Department's far-reaching mandate would also prepare against terrorist attacks and respond to biological, nuclear and chemical threats.

More about APHIS border protection within the Department of Homeland Security

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