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Abbott's inspections have cost Texas millions. Consumers could now see empty shelves.

 Trade groups and experts say Gov. Greg Abbott's truck inspections along the border will result in empty shelves at the grocery store and higher costs for produce.
Spencer Selvidge
/
KUT
Trade groups and experts say Gov. Greg Abbott's truck inspections along the border will result in empty shelves at the grocery store and higher costs for produce.

"Food shortages will rise as we head into Easter," the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has warned.

Traffic on all the bridges connecting Mexico to Texas is expected to get back to normal after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a fourth security agreement with a Mexican governor Friday afternoon.

Abbott, who is up for reelection in November, has agreed to end additional inspections on commercial vehicles crossing into Texas from Tamaulipas after that state's governor, Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca, promised to increase security on the Mexican side.

Tamaulipas is the last Mexican state to sign a deal with Abbott. None of the Mexican governors implemented anything new; they had already been doing what they pledged to do to enhance security at the border.

So, Abbott’s decision, although welcomed by many, comes after the state — and the nation — lost millions of dollars due to the searches, which have clogged up the international checkpoints.

“With the volume of reduction we’ve seen, you are costing the U.S. economy in total economic impact almost a billion dollars a day,” Ray Perryman, president of the economic research firm Perryman Group, said.

The Waco-based firm has researched the economic impact of previous border slowdowns, the most recent in 2019.

Using that same model, Perryman said, his group estimates Texas has lost about $470 million a day due to the slowdowns.

“Food should not be used as a bargaining chip, especially at a time when supply chain pressures continue to be acute.”
Greg Ferrara, National Grocers Association

The National Grocers Association said in a statement the inspections have affected their membership.

“We have received reports of fresh produce being lost due to the shipping delays, adding to the growing list of factors impacting the movement of goods,” Greg Ferrara, the president of the association, said. “Food should not be used as a bargaining chip, especially at a time when supply chain pressures continue to be acute.”

Consumers will feel the impact of Abbott’s inspection policies at the grocery store. They might see higher costs or even shipment delays, said Perryman.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has warned “food shortages will rise as we head into Easter.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, the chief executive of the Texas International Produce Association said people headed to the grocery store this weekend should expect empty shelves in the vegetable and fruit sections.

Perryman said the economy is likely to rebound quickly, however, once the flow of traffic on the international bridges improves.

“The difficulty is even before this we already had inadequate infrastructure at the border,” he said. “So we don’t start from a place where it automatically becomes seamless, but it does go back to the way it was and we’ve managed to adapt and work with that.”

Abbott has gotten backlash for the searches from Democrats, but also from members of his own Republican Party. Leaders on both sides have said it’s all political theater.

Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner, characterized Abbott’s inspections as a “clog in the drain.

"You cannot solve a border crisis by creating another crisis at the border," he said.

Every year, billions of dollars in two-way trade passes between Texas and Mexico.

According to U.S. census data analyzed by WorldCity, in 2021 the Laredo customs district saw the highest amount of trade, with about $243 billion. Ports of entry in Pharr, Eagle Pass and Brownsville also saw billions of dollars in trade last year.

Late Friday morning, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke called the inspections nothing but a political stunt that hurt the border. He said it was time for communities along the Rio Grande to start fighting back.

“It is time that we stand up for ourselves. This is a beautiful, amazing, extraordinary community,” he said during a news conference blocks away from the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso. “We do not deserve these political stunts. We don’t deserve this abuse. We deserve so much better.”

He reiterated that the so-called agreements with the Mexican governors were over measures already in place and that Abbott is trying to take the credit.

“This fake news that he’s trafficking to the people of Texas, we are not buying it,” O'Rourke said. “We are never going to forget what he has done to us and we will remember that we can do much better.”

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.