"STRICTER FINES FOR LIVESTOCK, MEAT SMUGGLING SOUGHT"
Smuggling a ham sandwich into the United States could soon get very expensive, according to The Associated Press.
Alarmed by scares with "mad cow" and foot-and-mouth diseases, Congress is preparing to sharply boost penalties for smuggling meat and livestock and to strengthen the government's power to prevent animal disease outbreaks.
Bills expected to be voted on in the Senate and House this fall would raise the maximum fines for meat smuggling from $1,000 to $50,000 for an individual and to $250,000 for a business. For first-time offenders, the top fine would still be $1,000 so long as the product was for personal use.
The bills would allow the Agriculture Department to seize the imported animals and quarantine a farm and stop the movement of livestock before a suspected disease had been confirmed by laboratory analysis.
Farm groups also have asked the administration's new Office of Homeland Security to appoint a specialist to oversee protection of agriculture. And a bioterrorism bill introduced in the Senate would provide $450 million for preventing attacks on the farm.