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By Tori Uhland

June 4, 2024

There are many factors that drive the markets every day – the primary drivers are often considered to be supply, demand, global trade, and government policy. That last one can get a little tricky, especially in a volatile market scenario like our current situation. When you add an election year into that mix, it becomes even more complicated. Lately, one of the things that has consumed a lot of my mind is how government policy is going to be impacting the soy crush. That is an entirely different can of worms that I’m not going to open just yet. Instead, I’m going to talk about something a little more fun that came up in the farm bill: the Beagle Brigade.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employs a team of dogs, known as the Beagle Brigade, to protect and safeguard America’s agricultural and natural resources from harm. The farm bill draft provides permanent funding to this program, which includes about 120 beagles that are employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, as well as state and local government agencies and departments.

Each dog in the Brigade goes through 13 weeks of training before starting their jobs inspecting U.S. airports and major ports of entry for prohibited agricultural items. They inspect passenger baggage, cargo, and parcels at the ports of entry, and are trained to detect certain invasive species. The pups sniff out plants and animals that have the potential to carry harmful diseases onto U.S. soil, helping to keep pestilence at bay. The dogs are spread out between 88 major international airports in the U.S. The Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) Detector Dog Training Center started in 1984 with just one dog and one trainer. Now, the Center sits on 17 acres with 8 buildings and 100 kennels.

While Beagles are the most visible part of the dog detector program, and the preferred breed for use in airports because of their size and appearance, Labrador Retrievers and Russell Terriers are also used in less visible areas of the airports. Labs are particularly good at detecting nutria, an invasive rodent species, and the coconut rhinoceros beetle, which is notaries for destroying coconut palm trees. Russell Terriers search ships and aircraft leaving Guam to prevent brown tree snakes from spreading to other areas that they could cause damage.

Just like their human handlers, the Beagle Brigade dogs typically put in an 8-hour workday. They spend 45 minutes out of every hour making rounds and inspecting flights. They can sniff out anything from illegal bush meats to exoticplants, soil, and even birds that people have tried to smuggle into the country. Dogs really are man’s best friend, and they help protect our nation’s crops, farms, and forests.

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