Also in debate this week was legislation establishing a new Department of Homeland Security. There remain key differences between the White House and Congress. The president has warned he would veto the legislation if it limited the personnel or budgetary powers of the head of the new agency.
But the provisions in the measure caused concern to many in the agricultural lobby have, apparently, been worked out.
With the passage of the measure, HSD is expected to employ 170-thousand people. Among them would be approximately 32-hundred United States Department of Agriculture employees who currently work for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS.
At the end of June, a trial balloon sent up by the Bush Administration included moving all the APHIS duties to Homeland Security. This suggestion raised more than a few eyebrows among both members of Congress and high-profile farm groups like the Farm Bureau.
Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation:(June 26, 2002) "By transferring APHIS to the new Department of Homeland Security, valuable programs would likely disappear. AFBF has worked diligently over the past several decades to help develop many of these programs to assist today' producers with a variety of production issues. To see these programs face possible reduction or extinction is not good policy either for the government or for agricultural producers."
This week, those worries were laid to rest as the framers of the National Homeland Security Act decided to take only those functions needed to combat terrorism from the various federal agencies. The duties of APHIS that would be melded into HSD include the Plumb Island Laboratory, which researches dangerous animal diseases like foot and mouth, and border inspections of agricultural goods.
The American Farm Bureau stated this week they are comfortable with the transfer of duties because non-terrorism functions like protection of crops from diseases and pests will remain with USDA.