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Border Rail Shutdown Hits US Ag Trade With its Largest Trade Partner Mexico

The partisan fight in Congress over tougher southern border controls to stem record illegal immigration is now slowing legal farm trade with America’s biggest foreign customer, Mexico.

The fight that’s kept lawmakers from passing a national security supplemental bill this year is now spilling over into trade with impacts for grain and other farm shipments to Mexico.

Number two Senate Republican, South Dakota’s John Thune, told reporters just outside the Senate chamber; “We got rail crossings into the United States from Mexico that have been shut down temporarily because Customs and Border Patrol had to shift their employees over to processing migrants.”

An unforeseen impact to relieve overwhelmed Border Patrol agents that is now impacting grain, feed, and ethanol exports at rail crossings in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas. Thune says, “So, we now have important bilateral trade arrangements, or bilateral trade coordination between us and Mexico that no longer exists. Hope that’s only temporary, but again, it’s a symptom of this problem, which is a national security threat, and we can’t trade with our biggest trading partner in the world.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency was forced to suspend rail operations at key points into and out of Mexico. The move is to help alleviate the sharp increase in illegal immigration at the border. These actions affect U.S. corn and barley shipments, two commodities the U.S. Grains Council represents. The CBP is working with the Mexican government to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, but there’s no timeline for returning to normal operations.

“The North American trading system relies on interconnectedness, and any disruption affects Mexican and U.S. Commodities,” says USGC Chair Ryan LeGrand. “It’s vital the situation gets resolved in a timely manner.”

A letter from the NCGA says, “We are aware of trains sitting at origin in at least six states that are unable to move, and we expect that number to grow. Mexican customers are telling U.S. shippers that they’ll soon consider other suppliers.”

The railroads and lawmakers are protesting the move that closed two of six railroad systems that cross the border and affects farm and consumer goods going all over the U.S., as well as into Mexico. Reports are of some 10,000 railcars currently sitting on either side of the border between the U.S. and Mexico as of Friday morning.

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