Texas House approves bill intended to improve ports of entry wait times

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, May 15, 2015

A bill nearing passage at the Texas statehouse covers wait times at ports of entry.

The House voted 81-54 to approve an amended bill that addresses the increase in trade traffic with the recent opening of the Mazatlan-Matamoros “superhighway.” The bill would aid truckers with perishable loads crossing into South Texas.

SB 797 calls for the creation of a grant program to reduce wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. Specifically, local governments and private companies would be allowed to help pay for overtime and/or increased agricultural inspectors at international bridges during peak times.

The Texas Department of Agriculture would be responsible for monitoring and contracting the grant recipients to ensure compliance with state laws.

In 2014, more than 170,000 truckloads of produce crossed into Texas from Mexico. Advocates say the number will continue to grow as the superhighway begins transporting 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, 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.

“These ports of entry promote sustainable job growth in the surrounding communities, attract more businesses to invest in our state and, most importantly, will bolster the Texas economy.”

The bill now moves back to the Senate for consideration of changes. If approved, it would head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

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