Border Crossings Hurting Farms, Ranches

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LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Since June, farm bureaus in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have been asking the Biden administration to do something to control the flow of immigrants into the United States through the southern border.

On Wednesday, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the situation has worsened for farmers and ranchers dealing with the situation.

Duvall joined a number of state farm bureau representatives from the border states as well as members of Congress this week on a tour of farms and ranches fighting an influx of immigrants on their land.

"What we've seen is how serious the situation is for farmers," Duvall said during a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday.

"Is heartbreaking to see and hear some of the stories that I've heard this week. Of course, you know, they've experienced people coming across our border for decades, but never at the level that we're seeing it today. Our farmers and ranchers are worried about their safety and their family's safety and their employees' safety. They're worried about the security of their property and the farm machinery and equipment."

HOMES LOOTED; FENCES TORN DOWN

Duvall said many farmers and ranchers have had homes looted, farm fences torn down and water sources tampered with, he said.

"It has been unbelievable for me to see the stress around human life, not just for my farmers and ranchers and their families and their employees, but also to the people coming across," he said.

Reps. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., toured the border in Uvalde County, Texas, on Tuesday, along with Duvall and Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening and local farmers and ranchers.

On Aug. 3, Gonzales, along with Texas Reps. August Pfluger, Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, introduced legislation to reimburse farmers and ranchers for damages and vandalism that occurred on their property as a result of the border influx.

"We need to secure this border, that's what my message is today to Congress and to the administration," Duvall told reporters. "We need to uphold the laws of the land, and we need to secure this border."

LETTER ASKED FOR ACTION

On June 3, farm bureaus in all 50 states and Puerto Rico asked the Biden administration to take action to help farmers and ranchers along the border. The same letter was sent to President Joe Biden. Duvall said in response to the letter, farm bureau presidents along the border had a phone call with the White House.

"While illegal immigration is often perceived primarily as a southern border issue, communities across the country are being negatively impacted," the groups said in a letter addressed to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

"If not properly addressed, these issues will only continue to multiply and escalate. Local and state border security resources have been exhausted, leaving little help for farmers and ranchers. We respectfully request federal authorities work promptly to provide additional resources and enforce legal immigration to secure U.S. borders.

"On behalf of farm and ranch families and our communities, we urge you to recognize the crisis and take swift action."

AFFECTS CATTLE HERDS

On the agriculture side of things, Duvall said the porous border could be creating some genetics concerns for cattle producers who have seen fences compromised by the flow of immigrants. Duvall said cattle herds can comingle.

"A lot of our cattle producers down here spend a lot of time on the genetics among their herd and some purebred herds down here," he said.

"It could cause problems, and you could lose a whole year's production when it comes to genetics and the things that you're trying to do to improve your herd."

Craig Odgen, president of the New Mexico Farm Bureau, said the border situation is raising concerns about biosecurity, not just with COVID-19 but with the presence of African swine fever most recently in the Dominican Republic.

"Livestock that can go back and forth, that is something that needs to be addressed," he said.

OVERWHELMED WITH HUMAN TRAFFIC

Boening said border agents have been "overwhelmed" in trying to control human traffic.

"It is serious," he said.

"Folks have never seen it at this level. We spent time in McAllen and then we went upriver to Del Rio, and different places are facing somewhat different issues that are caused by the same problem. In McAllen, the vast majority of the folks coming in are family units, unaccompanied minors, turning themselves in to border patrol agents and other authorities and just seeking asylum.

"But the number is overwhelming. It's overwhelming the capability of border patrol to process, to keep track of them and to basically, service their basic needs," Boening said.

Duvall said sheriffs and other officials along the border say the region could benefit by at least temporarily stopping the flow of immigrants.

In addition, he said officials in the region need more manpower and technology to better detect people crossing.

"We heard from border security that they need more manpower because the flow was so high coming across the border, they were pulling patrols out off the border, bringing them to the places of entry to do documentation work, which left the border not being watched closely," Duvall said.

Philip Bashaw, CEO of the Arizona Farm Bureau, said the border situation was "complex" and "multi-faceted" as it relates to some of the more remote areas in states like Arizona.

"But it has been going on for a long time, and we appreciate that attention is now being paid to some of the issues faced by our ranchers who live and work down in that area and are experiencing some of these challenges as it relates to property damage," he said.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

08/12/2021
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