Texas governor Greg Abott recently signed a bill aiming to speed up the inspection process for trucks carrying fresh produce across ports-of-entries along the Texas-Mexico border.
Texas House Bill 2155, which goes into effect September 1, reauthorizes a 2015 program allowing the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to award grants totaling $750,000 over the next two years to select organizations to pay for the hiring and overtime of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers performing inspections on fresh produce imports from Mexico.
The program then allows cities and private companies that paid CBP for overtime to receive reimbursement from the federal government, or use the grant money to reimburse the CBP.
“It is important that we efficiently and safely move perishable goods through our ports of entry to keep the cost of produce low for Texans while boosting the economy by encouraging trade with Mexico,” said State Rep. Bobby Guerra, (D-McAllen), who authored and helped pass the bill.
The value of US imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico was $12.1 billion in 2018, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Trade statistics from the USDA also show that US imports of fresh produce from Central American countries was $2.94 billion in 2018.
Since the program was created in 2015, it has been used at several bridges, including the Pharr-Reynosa and Anzalduas international bridges along the Texas-Mexico border. The bill could also address staffing shortages that have led to increased border-crossing delays in markets like El Paso.