Posted: Oct 26, 2012 8:06 AM
Updated: Oct 26, 2012 8:12 AM
AUSTIN - A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that understaffing at official U.S. border crossings not only endangers national security, but it also poses a real threat to America's agriculture industry.
According the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the greatest risk to agriculture involves exotic pests and foreign animal diseases - the threats that border inspectors are supposed to prevent from entering the country.
The most recent GAO report found that 78.4 percent of agriculture inspection supervisors reported that staffing levels are a very major challenge to achieving the agency's inspections goal to intercept pests and diseased livestock. These failures put untold numbers of agricultural jobs in danger because of the lack of adequate staffing at the U.S. border.
The $1 trillion U.S. agriculture industry is the nation's largest job-producing sector, employing more than 2 million Americans.
The GAO report on agricultural inspections at the border crossings repeated its prior recommendation for a 32 percent increase in the total number of agricultural inspectors; detailed that Homeland Security officials do not have the resources to increase staff above replacement levels; and reported that the Department has not developed a plan to assess the risk of fiscal constraints on their ability to appropriately staff for inspections and protect the U.S. agricultural sector from disaster.
TBC has submitted legislation to allow the private sector to step in and partner with government protect America from external threats, the Mexican drug cartels and crippling agricultural pests. These provisions have been included in President Barack Obama's annual budget, the 2012 House Homeland Security authorizing legislation and the 2013 Senate Homeland Security appropriations proposal.