Bill would add CBP staff at ports of entry

Finally—help may be on the way for Customs and Border Protection at the agency’s many severely understaffed ports of entry.

The National Treasury Employees Union this week announced its support for a bill that proposes to hire 240 additional Agriculture Specialists, who will be dispatched to work at the thinly-manned border.

“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,” Tony Reardon, NTEU’s president, said in a release. “This legislation is sorely needed to keep the ports running smoothly and protect our farmers and growers.”

The bill is known as the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019, and was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Unfortunately, even with the initial wave of new personnel, CBP at least initially will fall far short of its estimated needs. The agency’s own models, according to the union, show a need for an additional 695 Agriculture Specialists.

The bill also allows for hiring of as many as 200 additional Agriculture Technicians and 20 additional canine teams.

“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,” the union noted in the release. 

NTEU represents some 150,000 employees across the federal government—including about 27,000 at CBP.

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