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Agriculture, Federal Affairs
Local unit of USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service growing
Expanded antibioterrorism role part of homeland security changes
By KEN OLIVER-MENDEZ
December 5, 2002
The Puerto Rico operations of the U.S. Department of Agricultures Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (Aphis) continue to grow as a result of increased federal security measures at airports throughout the U.S.
State Director Leyinska Wiscovich, who oversees Aphis operations at airports in Isla Verde, San Juan, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Ponce, Roosevelt Roads, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS her agency has been staffing up and making other operational adjustments to meet new security requirements.
Aphis is usually the first federal agency outbound airline passengers encounter when traveling from the USVI or Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland.
As in Hawaii and Guam, Aphis is charged in the USVI and Puerto Rico with inspecting all luggage to ensure no plant diseases are propagated. In effect, Aphis represents an additional layer of federal inspection that isnt present in continental U.S. destinations.
"The main difference now is that it was never thought such diseases could be spread on purpose," Wiscovich said, referring to bioterrorism-related concerns. Among the operational changes for the agency in Puerto Rico, Wiscovich said, have been the need to staff airport inspection stations 24/7, as well as to increase the number of personnel and inspection machines.
As a result, the number of employees whom Wiscovich supervises has grown from 164 to 182 during the past year, and the annual budget for the agencys operations in Puerto Rico and the USVI has grown from $14 million to $15 million.
Wiscovich said Aphis also is working in closer coordination with sister federal security agencies at the airport, including the new Transportation Security Administration, Customs, and the Immigration & Naturalization Service. In fact, all of the above agencies are in the process of administratively integrating their respective operations under the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.