Filemon Vela

Representing the 34 District of Texas

Vela Border Bill Stresses on Agriculture Specialists

October 7, 2019
Press Release

Vela Border Bill Stresses on Agriculture Specialists

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Vela recently introduced HR 4482 - Protecting America's Food & Agricultural Act that would increase the number of agricultural inspectors and canine units at ports of entry.  The bill authorizes Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire up to 240 Agriculture Specialists per year, above the current attrition level, until the agency meets its own workforce targets.  By CBP’s calculations, the agency is understaffed by 695 Agriculture Specialists for Fiscal Year 2019.  In addition, the bill authorizes the hiring of 200 Agriculture Technicians and the addition of 20 canine teams a year. 

“These hard-working men and women are on the front-line of protecting our domestic agriculture industry and the health and safety of Americans from invasive pests and diseases such as Citrus Greening and African Swine Fever,” Vela stated.  “I cannot stress enough the importance that Agriculture Specialist play in our everyday lives and we need our ports to be fully staffed.” 

“The National Treasury Employees Union commends Rep. Vela for his legislation to hire and train more Agriculture Specialists, Technicians and canine teams to work at our ports of entry,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “This legislation is essential to guarding the nation’s farms and forests from invasive species. Customs and Border Protection is the last line of defense in finding and blocking harmful pests and plants from entering our country, and Congress should act quickly to address the critical staffing shortage by passing Rep. Vela’s bill.”

“This bill will go a long way and do a lot of good for our industry, and for the $12 B of fresh fruits and vegetables that cross our borders, as well as protecting the hundreds of thousands of American farmers worried about invasive pests & diseases,” said Dante Galeazzi, CEO/President of the Texas International Produce Association. 

“ Every day millions of pounds of agriculture products pass through our ports of entry,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino.  “This legislation will ensure that our ports of entry are equipped with the necessary resources to secure our food supply and protect our health and safety.”

“The need for additional agriculture inspectors, technicians, and K-9 units is vital to the movement of produce at the Pharr International Bridge.  As mayor of the great city of Pharr, Texas, I applaud Congressman Filemon Vela’s efforts in addressing a tremendous need for our international ports of entry,” said Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Mayor of the City of Pharr.  “Currently, the Pharr International Bridge crosses over 70% of the nation’s produce and is ranked the number one port of entry crosser for fruits and vegetables. Since the Mexican government opened the Supervia Mazatlan-Matamoros Highway, the Pharr International Bridge has seen a steady increase of 3-5% annual growth of north and southbound truck traffic.  This bill could not have come at a more opportune time, with the commencement of produce season underway. As our consumer population continues to grow along with our food consumption, this bill will assist with the decrease in wait times, efficiency in the movement of product, and most importantly, keep our nation’s food safe and healthy for all consumers”.

On an average day, Agriculture Specialist seize over 2,112 kilograms of drugs, 4,370 prohibited plant materials and/or animal products and 319 agricultural pests and diseases.  This legislation and it’s companion bill, S.2107 are supported by U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Treasury Employees Union, Border Trade Alliance, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Pork Producers and TX International Produce Association.