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Fulfilling CBP's Agriculture Mission

Agricultural border inspection duties moved from the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, known as APHIS, to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in March 2003. Since the initial transition period of inspection responsibilities, CBP has been fulfilling its agriculture mission and has advanced inspection processes beyond what most people could have imagined in 2001.

Workforce/Career Enhancement-When CBP began agriculture operations, approximately 1,560 agricultural inspectors came on board from the USDA. Today, the agency has deployed more than 2,360 agriculture specialists at approximately 165 ports of entry. Their career path takes them higher up the General Schedule-to a journeyman GS-12 position-than was possible in the USDA.

Training-Since 2005, CBP and APHIS have continued to develop and deploy agricultural pest detection modules to anticipate the needs of the agricultural community. These include modules on the Asian gypsy moth, Khapra beetle, and the Asian citrus psyllid.

In the development pipeline are technology transfer modules on the fruit fly complex and wood packaging material. CBP and APHIS are also building train-the-trainer programs on data collection for agriculture coordinators.

Operation effectiveness-The effort is working!

Asian gypsy moth (AGM), Lymantria dispar asiatica Vnukovskij (Lymantriidae) is a very serious forest pest that defoliates leaves from a wide variety of trees, and is capable of destroying millions of acres of woodlands in a single season. During AGM flight periods, the moth is known to attach to vessels operating in Korea, Japan, China and East Russia. AGM is not established in the U.S., and preventing introduction is a vital economic boundary. CBP agriculture specialists (CBPAS) continue detecting and sharing best-practices to prevent introduction of the pest into the U.S. where millions of dollars in forest resources are at stake. AGM is a very serious forest pest that hitchhikes on the superstructure of vessels and cargo, eats more than 500 plant species, and can fly up to 20 miles a day, dispersing eggs across vast interior woodlands, causing economic and environmental damage. Efforts to detect and interdict AGM are significant due to potential adverse economic impact due to loss of trees, plants and the costs to trap, contain, and eradicate all populations.

CBP caught the AGM 20 times in 2009; in mid-October 2011 the annual number was 22. As a result of the increased interceptions in 2009, APHIS began an AGM Inspection Certification program for international vessels that visit high risk countries.

The Khapra beetle is an exceedingly serious pest of grain as it has been nominated as one of the 100 worst invasive species worldwide. Its entrance into the agriculture of the United States can lead to serious consequences such as lower quality of product due to contamination and consumer health risks due to exposure to grain contaminated with insect parts. Moreover, severe infestations of Khapra beetle can render grain unpalatable and unmarketable thus leading to loss of export markets which could be devastating to the U.S. economy. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, KB was detected 15 times. In FY 2008, KB was intercepted on 17 occasions. In FY 2009, the pest was intercepted 12 times. In FY 2010, KB was found 24 times. APHIS did not have a training program developed for KB, which led CBP Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison (APTL) to initiate a KB training program for the CBPAS and uniformed CBP officers. FY 2011 was the breakout year for KB interceptions, totaling 194, indicating the substantial impact that APTL generated through the training program.

To deal with potential agriculture-related emergency scenarios, the APHIS and CBP convened a group of subject matter experts to identify and propose emergency responses, including sufficient staffing to meet the risks. The plan just received final approval and is being coordinated for a joint agency roll-out.

Additional highlights: CBP completed a hatching-egg pilot program, which structured communication, roles, and processes to detect and prevent smuggling of hatching-eggs through the Miami port of entry. The agency is also creating rules for countermeasures on agricultural/biological terrorism.

Performance measures-Together CBP and APHIS have created performance measures for the variety of pest pathways: passenger baggage, vehicles, pedestrians, international mail, and specific cargo pathways, including vessels, commercial aircraft, and trucks. The metrics await final approval and implementation.

Canine Team Expansion-The effectiveness of the agricultural canine program has grown. When APHIS transferred agricultural personnel to the new CBP, approximately 75 canine teams came over. Today 114 agricultural canine teams are on patrol, a 52 percent increase. CBP ensures that canine and handler training meets national standards that are established with APHIS. The agencies have developed and implemented CBP supervisory overview training for the agricultural canine program. The pathways and environments determine the allocation of resources, including canines, which are deployed where they are most effective.

Resources-CBP and APHIS developed a more effective and transparent financial management system. CBP in collaboration with APHIS developed a comprehensive agriculture specialist risk-based resource allocation staffing model, which awaits validation and roll-out.

CBP's agricultural program is succeeding in its mission to protect agricultural and food products from contamination and/or infestation with plant pests and foreign animal diseases. U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilitate legitimate trade and travel while protecting our Homeland: the American people, plant and animal resources, and the U.S. economy.