New Texas law expected to improve ports of entry wait times
July 8, 2019
Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law a bill that covers wait times for certain loads at ports of entry.
The effort addresses the increase in trade traffic along the Texas-Mexico border. The new law is touted to aid perishable loads crossing into South Texas.
Previously HB2155, the new law reauthorizes a grant program for nonprofits to reduce wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. A 2015 grant approved by the Texas Legislature provided $625,000 to help eliminate backups.
Specifically, this year’s legislation calls for allowing local governments to help pay for overtime and/or increased agricultural inspectors at international bridges during peak times. The total amount of grants awarded could not exceed $725,000 for the next two years.
The Texas Department of Agriculture will be responsible for monitoring and contracting the grant recipients to ensure compliance with state laws.
During a recent 12-month period more than 170,000 truckloads of produce crossed into Texas from Mexico. Advocates say the number will continue to grow as the Mazatlan-Matamoros superhighway transports more fresh produce from the western Mexico coast along the Texas border.
Due to staffing shortages at the state’s ports of entry, Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, has said trucks transporting produce experience long periods of delay or do not make it through the inspection process. As a result, the shelf life is lowered, which hurts the bottom line for Texas importers.
Guerra also said that investing in the produce import industry is imperative for Texas.
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in recent remarks his agency will get the money “where it needs to go.” He highlighted border cities that include McAllen and El Paso “to get this backlog cleared.”
The program has implementation date of Sept. 1. It will need to be renewed in two years.
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