The Senate approved a bill introduced by Sen. Thad Cochran that will protect the U.S. agricultural industry and increase revenue to the Federal Treasury by tightening the standards on the collection of import duties.

The New Shipper Review Amendment Act, which passed by unanimous consent Wednesday night, closes a loophole in U.S. law that has allowed new shippers to bypass antidumping and countervailing duties. Under current law, new shippers are given the option of posting either a cash deposit or a bond as security for the amount of duties that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will ultimately assess against the imports.

Some importers exploit the bonding privilege to evade the eventual payment of any duties. The Cochran bill requires that all imports from new shippers be secured by cash deposits.

In fiscal year 2003, the Customs and Border Protection was unable to collect $130 million in import duties due to the loophole.

“The bill passed by the Senate would help level the playing field for agriculture producers who have had to compete with the unfair trading practices of foreign importers,” Cochran said. “This bill benefits U.S. farmers and the federal government. I hope it will fix the loophole that allows some to take advantage of current law.”

The bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Chip Pickering, R-Miss. It was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it is awaiting consideration.