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Serving: United States

GAO Says U.S. Agriculture May be Vulnerable to Foreign Pests

The transfer of responsibilities for Agricultural Quarantine Inspection may have compromised the mission.

The Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program requires passengers and cargo to be inspected to keep prohibited pests and materials from entering the country. With more than a trillion dollars of annual economic activity derived from agriculture, protecting it is a high priority.

However; the transfer of AQI responsibilities from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection in March of 2003 may have left the U.S. vulnerable according to the Government Accountability Office.

Although GAO found that APHIS and CBP have expanded hours of training and created new liaison positions in the field to act as agricultural advisors, CBP needs to address several management problems. Among them, CBP had not used available data to evaluate AQI's effectiveness and had failed to developed performance measures to manage and evaluate the program.

GAO recommends that USDA and DHS develop a risk based staffing model and adopt meaningful performance measures for assessing the effectiveness of the AQI program.

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