Ag Groups Voice Concerns Over International Railroad Crossing Closures

by Andy Schwab

Ag groups continue to raise concerns about two railroad bridge shutdowns on the U.S. – Mexico border. The shutdowns have stopped train traffic heading to and from Mexico after the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Sunday announced a temporary closure at El Paso and Eagle Pass. Border patrols became overwhelmed in both Texas and Arizona at international crossings and diverted staff from El Paso and Eagle Pass to deal with the crisis, forcing the temporary closure of the bridges used by railroads such as Union Pacific.

On Wednesday, over 40 ag groups and other affected organizations sent a letter to the Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, to urge immediate action of reopening the international crossings to avoid a supply chain and potential food security crisis in Mexico.

National Barley Growers Association (NBGA) was on that letter that highlighted nearly two-thirds of all U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico move via rail. Mitch Konen, NBGA Vice President told our network’s Andy Schwab, the crossing closure is leading to back ups all the way to the farm.

“There’s quite a few trains now, that I’ve heard, that are still at their starting points because they have nowhere to go so that puts a backlog on the rail system,” said Konen. He added, “there are 20 carloads of Montana barley, worth $500,000, sitting in El Paso that are ready to be shipped to the Heineken brewery, but can’t with the shutdown.”

In addition to barley growers being hurt by this shutdown, pulse producers could see the ramifications of the closure. Our network’s Colter Brown spoke with Liz Edmundson, Executive Director Montana Pulse Crop Committee who said, Mexico is a critical market for U.S. pulses and leaving cars filled with peas and lentils sitting at the border will have a rippling effect on the ag supply chain that will create a negative impact on Montana farmers.

“An estimated 4.7 million pounds of lentils and 1.2 million pounds of Peas have come down from Montana through the Mexican border since September 1st,” said Edmundson. She added, “that’s roughly $170,000 in pea trade value and $2.1 million in lentil trade value that will go for animal and human consumption.”

Solutions are trying to be found currently with calls and letters being sent to congressional leaders and department heads.

Montana Grain Growers Association President, Boyd Heilig told Colter that MGGA has already been in contact with Montana’s congressional delegation and is working with the National Association of Wheat Growers, Barley Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates to reopen the crossings as quickly as possible.

“Mexico is our number one wheat buyer in the world,” Heilig said. “$114 million goes through there every day and its critical for Montana growers and all American growers that we reopen these borders.”

“Most of our grain is exported and especially barley goes down to Mexico,” Heilig added. “If you disrupt that for 3 or 4 days, that’s a real threat to our market. But Montana Grain Growers has been working the last couple of days to make sure the decision-makers understand what this means to agriculture and get this situation fixed.”


Northern Ag Network – 2023

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