WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to step up agriculture inspections to prevent invasive species from entering the country following a report that such inspections have dropped dramatically in the ten years since the formation of DHS.
“The strength of the American people – our health, our economy, even our military – relies significantly on the security of our food supply,” Senator Casey wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Invasive species, such as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle have caused a significant amount of physical and economic damage in Pennsylvania. The federal approach toward the problem of invasive species must concentrate on prevention, not ignore it.”
Senator Casey urged DHS to cross-train staff so they are prepared to identify threats to the safety of the agricultural and forestry industries.
Senator Casey, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently announced a $5.7 million grant to support research at Penn State and other universities to study the negative effects that stink bugs have on agriculture in an effort to develop control strategies. The grant was awarded through the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which Senator Casey strongly supported in the Farm Bill.
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
The strength of the American people – our health, our economy, even our military – relies significantly on the security of our food supply. Our ability to grow the food we feed our families and to harvest the timber we use to build and transport American-made products is critical to our national security. Since invasive species pose a major threat to our agricultural industry, I am extremely alarmed by the enclosed Associated Press article, which highlights how the frequency of agriculture inspections dropped dramatically during the ten years following the formation of Homeland Security Department.
Invasive species, such as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle have caused a significant amount of physical and economic damage in Pennsylvania. Preventing these pests from getting into the country through thorough inspections at our ports and borders costs much less than putting into place after-the-fact efforts aimed at reducing the damage they cause and slowing their spread across our landscape. The federal approach toward the problem of invasive species must concentrate on prevention, not ignore it.
I am committed to providing federal agencies with the tools needed to guard against invasive species. In the 111th Congress, I succeeded in having provisions of my EAT SAFE Act passed into law through the Food Safety Modernization Act. By enabling agencies to add personnel to detect, track and remove smuggled food and by calling for the development and implementation of strategies to stop food from being smuggled into the United States, my EAT SAFE Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act made America safer and stronger. This bill also called for an increase in port personnel and inspections.
I urge the Department of Homeland Security to cross-train staff so they are prepared to identify and address all types of threats to our security, including those to our immediate personal safety and to the safety of our agricultural and forestry industries. If you know any additional legislative solutions which would assist the Department in achieving its mission at our borders, please know that I welcome such discussion of ideas and that I am committed to ensuring that American citizens, and the food they eat, remain safe.
Thank you for your work on this issue and all the issues affecting our national security. I look forward to continuing to work with you.
Robert P. Casey
United States Senator