NCC on Monday joined a broad coalition of agriculture and trade groups in sending a letter to Congressional appropriators requesting funding to ensure that the work of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture inspectors continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The undersigned groups urge you to ensure adequate funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Quarantine Inspection (AQI) at U.S. international ports of entry,” the letter read.

Agriculture inspection of international passengers and cargo entering the U.S. is carried out by CBP’s AQI personnel. This service is ordinarily funded by AQI user fees collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and transferred to CBP to cover salaries and expenses of the inspectors.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a dramatic drop in international travel and cargo imports, resulting in dramatically reduced AQI user fee collections.

“With user fee collections not expected to rebound for the foreseeable future, the shortfall in funding for AQI at the ports of entry through the end of FY2021 is estimated to be $630 million,” the letter read.

The letter was addressed to House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX), Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The letter copied the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture, the Chair and Ranking Member of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.

More than 150 organizations signed the letter, which can be found here.