Monday, November 05, 2007

Farm Organizations Want Inspectors Back Under USDA

Amongst the changes with the creation of Homeland Security was the removal of Quarantine and Inspections from USDA to the new department. Today a large coalition of agriculture organizations asked Congress to put these back in USDA. They sent a letter to Senator Tom Harkin and Senator Saxby Chambliss making this request. Go to Fresh Talk to read the entire letter:

The 2003 transfer of inspectors previously dedicated to agricultural threats has proven to be unsuccessful. A May 2006 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report documented that detections at ports of entry have dropped dramatically while the threats have increased. Moreover, the GAO report found that only 21 percent of agricultural inspectors at DHS consistently received timely inspection alerts. In addition, a 2007 report from the Offices of Inspectors General for both DHS and USDA along with a recent investigation by the House Agriculture Committee and additional GAO reviews in 2006 and 2005 all found persistent problems.

Despite many assurances that performance will improve, the problems continue and lead us to conclude that improvement is not possible in the current structure. The threat of pests and disease is too great for us to continue to wait, particularly since the USDA program had an excellent track record. A 2004 Cornell study showed that invasive species cost U.S. agriculture $120 billion annually and continued delay in addressing this issue will only increase these costs.

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