Senate bill would transfer agriculture inspectors out of DHS

A bill recently introduced in the Senate would transfer agriculture inspection duties from the Homeland Security Department to the Agriculture Department, where they originally resided.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., would shift the duties for inspections at all U.S. entry points from DHS' Customs and Border Protection bureau to Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The move would affect about 1,800 CBP agricultural inspectors. One CBP manager who asked to remain anonymous said it would be another example of backpedaling due to the realization that DHS was assembled too hastily and has too many disparate parts. Inspections activities moved to DHS upon the department's inception in March 2003.

"They weren't getting the resources they needed here," the manager said of the agriculture inspectors at his border station. "They're like the bastard child."

Agriculture inspection officials at CBP have complained about not having enough staff to conduct sufficient inspections.

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said another reorganization of the department could have "a negative impact on our security" and would minimize CBP's "one face at the border" effort that has been mandated by Congress. He said "rearranging the deck chairs yet again" also could affect morale.

Durbin and Feinstein cited a Government Accountability Office report (GAO-06-644) last year that highlighted a decrease in agricultural inspections at points of entry, mismanagement under DHS and growing U.S. vulnerability to foreign pests and diseases. The report stated that inspections at some points of entry decreased by as much as 20 percent from March 2003 to September 2005. Sixty percent of agriculture inspectors believed they were doing fewer checks, the report said.

GAO also criticized DHS' handling of dogs used for agriculture inspection and suggested that CBP improve its staffing and financial management models.

"When inspection rates at key American points of entry decrease, the threat of infestation dramatically increases," Durbin said in a statement. "We owe it to the American people to make sure our government is doing all it can to control the spread of invasive species."

Pest control and disease issues cost the farming industry $41 billion annually, according to the Agriculture Department. "Once these pests and diseases have entered the country, it is very difficult and expensive to control the damage," Feinstein said.

The bill was introduced March 14 and has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. A spokesman for the panel could not say when it will be considered.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.