Agriculture Specialists are integral to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). They are part of the team that keeps our country safe from terrorists and their weapons—although their job does not focus on people. Rather, they are assigned to check on the millions of pounds of agricultural items that are commercially shipped to the United States each year. We’re talking about fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, and herbs from all over the world that could potentially harbor pests, plant viruses, diseases, bio-threats, and other agro-threats. When allowed to pass through our ports of entry—whether in airports, seaports, and land borders—these agricultural items could not only cause great harm to our own agricultural products, it could also compromise our economy and endanger the health of all Americans.
Agriculture Specialist (Port of Entry)
Under their watchful and highly-trained eyes, Agriculture Specialists can detect these threats no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they are. Sometimes they work together with their canine partners to find these illegal or dangerous items that are masterfully hidden in agricultural items. When they work with dogs, they are called CBP Agriculture Specialists Canine Handlers.
To become an Agricultural Specialist, you must have a bachelor’s or higher degree in biological sciences with a major field of study in botany, entomology and plant pathology. Those whose fields are in agriculture, natural resource management, chemistry, or any other directly-related field are also qualified. If you only have 24 semester-hours in college in any of the disciplines mentioned, you can combine that with experience to qualify at the GS-5 level.
The work experience must be in the areas of pest control, pesticide application, inspecting aircraft or passengers, x-ray or environmental monitoring, or farm management. If you are using farm management experience, the job must be related to disease control, insect detection/eradication, or pest control.
Higher levels of education, specialized experience, or Superior Academic Achievement can also get you to a higher grade level which translates to higher starting pay.Applicants must also meet the basic requirements for this position: You must be a U.S. Citizen, possess a valid state driver’s license at the time of appointment, and pass all pre-employment requirements, and be literate in computer programs like Word, Excel, and Access in order to be able to use the job-related databases. You should also be fit enough to undertake physically strenuous duties that involve climbing ladders and inspecting cargo.
All applicants must pass pre-employment requirements to be considered. These include a thorough background investigation, drug test and medical examination. Past or present arrests, convictions, dismissals from previous jobs, debts and financial issues, excessive use of alcohol, use of illegal drugs and/or the sale and distribution of illegal drugs will most likely make you unsuitable for this position.
After you have passed all the pre-employment requirements, you will be given an employment offer. As a new hire, you must successfully complete ten to twelve weeks of paid training at the Professional Development Center located in Frederick, MD before you can be officially known as a CBP Agriculture Specialist. During the application process, you will be asked to choose where you prefer to work in any of the 12 hiring regions. You must be willing to work in any of the locations in the region you have chosen.
Meanwhile, CBP Agriculture Specialists interested in working within the Canine Enforcement Program must attend an additional 10 to 13 weeks of New Canine Handler training course provided by the USDA in Newnan, GA. These positions are only available if the ports of entry require it.