Pharr International Bridge Collaborates With Legislators to Fund Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program
PHARR, TX - With the safety and quality of fresh produce grown both domestically and internationally of the utmost importance, Pharr International Bridge and the City of Pharr, Texas, have made a critical move to help with congestion relief at ports of entry along the South Texas-Mexico border. Joined by legislators, the entities have led efforts for the passage of House Bill 1371/ Senate Bill 1566 in the Texas Legislature to extend the Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program, also known as the South Texas Assets Consortium (STAC) Program, through 2025.
"The Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program is vital to keeping our ports of entry moving, ensuring that our produce is free of invasive pests and helps solidify our trading capacity by efficiently and expediently continuing the flow of products through our bridge," said Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D.
The bill has now been sent to Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his signature, according to a press release. Helping Pharr with this vital effort were Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. and Representative Bobby Guerra who both worked alongside the city and the South Texas Legislative Delegation to get the bill passed through their respective chambers.
“On behalf of the City of Pharr, we commend Senator Lucio and Representative Guerra for their dedicated efforts in working to expediently get this vital legislation approved through their respective chambers,” added Mayor Hernandez. “As our elected official representing Pharr, Senator Lucio has always understood the significance of the Pharr International Bridge. He continues to be one of the most powerful advocates in Austin for South Texas. The South Texas Legislative Delegation has been instrumental in keeping vital funding for this program to continue the economic prosperity and vitality of our region and our state.”
The City of Pharr and the Pharr International Bridge have worked closely with the Texas Legislature for the past three legislative sessions to advocate for the continuation of the STAC Program. The grant program was originally signed into law during the 84th Legislative Session, with both Representative Guerra and Senator Lucio as the co-sponsors. Through its passage, the program has reduced long wait times along the Texas-Mexico border ports of entry.
“With STAC in place, the risk is eliminated for trucks to be halted and left at the inspection docks overnight only to be processed the following morning,” said Cindy Garza-Reyes, Director of External Affairs for the City of Pharr and the Pharr International Bridge. “What is key about this project is that not only are local community stakeholders invested in this program, but communities and private business outside of our region are also invested in eliminating any disruption within the supply chain process. This project will help alleviate wait times and increase our economic trade capacity.”
As the only full-service commercial port of entry in the surrounding region, the Pharr International Bridge serves as an economic engine for the area and is one of the busiest ports of entry in the state and the nation. The bridge currently ranks third in the U.S. for trade with Mexico, and it is the seventh largest, fastest-growing land of port entry nationally and number one crosser of produce, now crossing 65 percent of the nation’s produce imported from Mexico and reporting $36 billion in annual trade.
Because of the high volume of fresh produce crossing the border, agricultural inspections are crucial to guarding the agriculture industry and consumers. As demand surges, a burden has been placed on the agricultural inspection procedures at the South Texas-Mexico ports of entry. Additionally, a shortage of agricultural inspectors has caused further congestion.
The existing Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program—administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture—reduces wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas border. The industry has already seen great impact; with the grant program enacted, the number of fresh produce trucks that had to wait overnight for inspections dropped dramatically.
This decrease in wait time will not only benefit suppliers of fresh produce, but buyers and retailers as well, as they will have increased, faster access to products.
“I am proud to have garnered wide support on a bipartisan basis in the Senate to pass legislation important to the State of Texas, especially to the Rio Grande Valley,” said Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. “The Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program is important to our border communities, Texas farmers, and for consumers at grocery stores like H-E-B.”
The continued implementation of the program will allow Texas ports of entry to build the personnel and the efficiencies needed to protect farmers, encourage the growth of the Texas fruit and vegetable industry, and help the state’s economy grow by creating a partnership where local communities alongside the state government can fund necessary resources needed for the successful flow of trade.
“The Agricultural Inspection Grant is integral to successful trade at our southern border,” said Representative Bobby Guerra. “Previous success of this program illustrates that it is an inexpensive and effective tool that keeps our grocery stores stocked with fresh produce while stimulating economic growth and job creation in Texas.”
As this newly reinstated program continues to take effect, what impacts will it have on produce availability and trade? Stick with AndNowUKnow as we go in search of the answers.