AUSTIN – Friday, April 5, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller issued a call to action for the legislature to eliminate a backup at the border . . . not of people, but products. With an increase in trade and some Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) personnel redirected to deal with the migrant crisis, some commercial trucks are waiting in lines up to 12 hours to get their products into the United States. When the Texas-Mexico border dealt with a similar setback in 2014, the Texas Department of Agriculture responded with over half a million dollars to provide additional staff and resources to help clear the backlog. With the Legislature in session, TDA is awaiting approval of new funding to help Texas international bridges eliminate the backlog and speed up agricultural inspections.
“The backup at the Texas border is affecting more than just people,” Commissioner Miller said, “it affects goods, including agricultural products. While I support whatever steps President Trump feels is necessary to deal with the immigration crisis, we’ve got to keep our cross border trade healthy and moving. The Texas Department of Agriculture is ready to help again, if the Legislature will act.”
Texas is one of the nations’ most important gateways for products entering the U.S. and holds one of the nation’s top agricultural exporting spots. Texas agricultural producers on both sides of the border rely on CBP border inspections to protect Texas agriculture industries and consumers.
State Representative R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen authored and passed the legislation creating the Agricultural Grant Inspection Program with the goal of reducing wait times along the Texas-Mexico border. He has filed House BIll 2155 to reauthorize this funding.
“I am proud that my legislation made a real impact on how quickly we are able to move produce through our points of entry,” said Guerra. “Previously, I worked with the House Committee on Agriculture to host a hearing in the Rio Grande Valley on this very issue. It was crucial that my colleagues from across the state see firsthand why this is important for all Texans. Mexico accounted for $187 billion in trade with Texas last year supporting hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs. I have a bill this session to continue this vital grant program and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.”
In 2015, TDA provided a grant of $625,000 to the South Texas Asset Consortium (STAC) to pull together additional staff and resources to help CBP eliminate a similar backup. Through STAC, local municipalities, bridge operators, private industry, and others coordinated with CBP to provide additional staffing levels and increased hours of coverage, particularly during periods of high crossing volumes. The grant announced in 2015 expires in May of this year, just as the legislative session ends.
“I hope the Legislature acts soon to approve necessary grant funds,” Commissioner Miller said. “If they get TDA the money, we’ll get it where it needs to go, like border cities like McAllen and El Paso to get this backlog cleared. Agricultural trade is vital to Texas and Mexico, and in particular, these border communities. TDA is standing by ready to help.”