No one is sure what the consequences of the law will be for the federal agencies or for the facilities, he said.
“The FDA is struggling with it because they don’t have the personnel.”
On a positive note, some changes are in the works that could take some of the pressure off federal inspectors.
Customs and Border Patrol is the primary inspection agency, but border patrol has limited release authority in some cases — such as when certain insects are detected in a load. When that happens, inspectors from USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service must be called in.
“APHIS has agreed to train CBP to be more knowledgeable about the insect issue and to have greater cargo release authority,” McClung said.
APHIS also has agreed to station a full-time insect identifier at the Pharr-Reynosa bridge, he said.
The government is looking at technical advances that can be used to speed up the border crossing process, including considering a product’s track record.
“(Product) that is statistically unlikely to be problematic will be moved through a little more quickly,” he said, while product that has a history of representing health or safety problems will be scrutinized.
McClung thinks that the agriculture industry and the government in south Texas probably have as good or better a relationship as ever.
“We’ve been doing a lot of talking to each other,” he said. “They know what our problems are, we know what their problems are, and we try to accommodate one another’s needs.”