Texas Produce Industry Comments on President Trump's Emergency Visit to McAllen
MCALLEN, TX - It is now day 20 of the government shutdown, and as President Trump continues to push forward his agenda of securing funding for a new border wall, he announced a surprise emergency visit to border towns like produce’s own McAllen, Texas. Ahead of his visit, I spoke with prominent Texas ag figures Dante Galeazzi, President and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, and Bret Erickson, Sr. VP Business Affairs for J&D Produce, about his border wall proposal, labor, and more.
“From what we understand, the President will be in McAllen today to visit the U.S. Customs & Border Protection station, followed by a trip to the Rio Grande river. While we prefer positive publicity for all the good in the region, we understand the importance of today’s visit to the administration’s objectives,” Dante shared. “While we’re thankful for the additional federal resources—especially those that help facilitate trade—we do have our concerns in this region about the construction of a border wall. South Texas is not like the areas of California, Arizona, or New Mexico where the largest sections of the border wall exists today.”
Dante explained that current construction plans in South Texas call for building the wall along a levee system on the U.S. side of the border, which is anywhere from ½ mile to several miles away from the Rio Grande river. He said the wall would then essentially be separating America from America and would likely require the government to appropriate U.S. farmland along the river for the space needed to build that wall.
“It would mean taking away resources from our American farmers and further decreasing the number of viable farming acres in our region,” Dante continued. “We support border security and the dedication of resources necessary to do so. However, we would like to see the administration take a different approach to the issue, perhaps something more in line with Rep. Hurd's suggestions for a security plan using technology to gain operational control of the border, especially for this region.”
Bret shared Dante’s appreciation of Trump’s willingness to visit the situation on the ground at McAllen.
“I’m happy that the President has chosen to come visit the border region, especially to my home here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Bret said. “I hope he walks away with a better understanding of how important international trade is to our region and to the country. The fresh produce sector specifically has flourished in Texas and created thousands of jobs and economic activity, both directly and indirectly. At J&D we are primarily a domestic producer, however we do rely on imports to help supplement our overall program. Imports allow us to serve our customers throughout the year and keep our full time employees busy year-round.”
Ahead of Trump’s visit, Bret noted he aims to move the conversation toward labor issues as well.
“It is my hope that the President looks beyond the singular issue of a border wall and considers a comprehensive approach to border security which includes significant improvements in our guest worker programs that allows these people to come and work legally in the U.S.” Bret said. “As a domestic grower/shipper, we are suffering from a severe labor shortage. It gets worse every year, and Congress has done nothing to improve our situation. It’s terribly frustrating to see our growth and success constrained by political warfare. There are so many able-bodied people wanting to come to the U.S. Let’s find a way to let them work legally and help the American farmer succeed to give U.S. consumers more options in the produce aisle.”
There will likely be new information about Trump’s government shutdown and border wall following today’s visit. According to CNBC, Trump has teased the possibility of declaring a national emergency to build the border wall. This would circumvent the need for congressional approval. The news source noted that Trump could potentially use the journey to McAllen as part of his justification for the action.
AndNowUKnow will keep you updated with the latest.