Last week, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT), along with 62 of their colleagues, called on Congressional Leadership to take immediate action to protect American farmers and the U.S. food supply.
“The Agriculture Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program protects American agricultural producers and our food supply from serious non-native animal and plant diseases that could devastate crops and livestock,” stated Brownley. “Ventura County growers know how serious foreign pests and diseases can be to our domestic crops, as evidenced by the tremendous losses from citrus greening and other diseases. It is absolutely critical that Congress address the funding shortfall in this program, so we can protect our domestic food supply and protect American consumers’ access to high-quality, affordable food supplies.”
“Farming is hard enough without having to deal with non-native plants, animals and diseases that can devastate native crops, herds, and ecosystems across the country,” said Welch. “Vermont has recently gone through this with the emerald ash borer, which has devastated many parts of our forests. This important USDA program helps our farmers by keeping our crops, herds, and farmland healthy and fertile. Congress must make sure that this critical program has the funds it needs to continue doing its work.”
The AQI program is responsible for preventing foreign agricultural diseases and pests from coming into our country through ports of entry. The program is typically funded through user fees collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) from international travel and cargo shipments. With the reduction in both international travel and shipping due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AQI is soon going to run out of money. It is estimated that $630 million is needed to fund AQI inspections for Fiscal Year 2021.