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NGFA, Ag and Transportation Groups: Rail Closures at US-Mexico Border are Damaging Ag Exports and the U.S. Economy

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 20, 2023 – In a letter sent today to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and 45 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group requested the immediate opening of the El Paso and Eagle Pass international rail crossings.

“The closure of the rail crossings is rippling back into the U.S. supply chain and having negative impacts on the U.S. economy,” the letter notes. “While we are sympathetic to the humanitarian needs on the U.S./Mexico border, the interconnectedness of the North American supply chain means the closure of rail crossings causes backups on the rail system as far north as the U.S./Canada border and hurts our economy.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced Monday it would temporarily close the crossings beginning early on Dec. 18 “after observing a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains.”

Nearly two-thirds of all U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico move via rail, the groups noted in the letter. Mexico was the United States’ second largest export market in 2022 with $28.5 billion in sales. Each day the crossings are closed nearly 1 million bushels of grain exports are potentially lost along with export potential for many other agricultural products.

Due to the closures, rail carriers need to idle trains or reroute them in illogical ways, adding friction within the supply chain. “We are aware of grain trains sitting at origin in at least six states that are unable to move, and we expect this number to grow,” the groups added. “We have also heard of customers in Mexico telling U.S. suppliers they will begin to look to other countries if the U.S. cannot provide a resilient and reliable supply chain.”

Blocking U.S. ag exports to Mexico creates a real threat of food inflation and increased food insecurity in that country, the groups noted. Mexico’s livestock and poultry industry is already running low on feed and Mexican livestock and poultry producers may need to depopulate animals for humanitarian reasons if these shipments continue to be blocked.

“It is hard to understand how CBP would allow this to happen to the food chain of our neighbor and one of our closest trading partners,” the letter concluded. “We understand there is a migrant crisis, but a supply chain and potential food security crisis in Mexico can be avoided by reopening the international crossings. We urge you to take immediate action.”

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