PHARR, RGV – While President Trump’s visit to the Rio Grande Valley was dominated by talk of a border crisis and possibly even a national emergency, this week’s visit by VIPs focused on international friendship and cooperation.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a big supporter of Trump, was sworn into office for a second term at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. At the event, he and his good friend, Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, spoke about the importance of international trade and partnerships.
Asked by reporter Edelia Hernandez of El Mañana about ugly rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C., Miller said: “Washington? They do not ask me what to do. Whatever they do, they are on their own. We have to do things our own way here in Texas. We always have.”
Asked by the Rio Grande Guardian if he felt comfortable in the Rio Grande Valley, given that there is a reported “border crisis” going on, Miller said: “I served 12 years in the Legislature and I was chairman of homeland security. I worked with the people down here. I worked with the border sheriffs and the ranchers and I feel comfortable down here, I sure do. We are good.”
Miller was sworn into office by Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Martinez Guzman. Asked by he picked the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge for the ceremony, Miller said: “Because it represents the cooperation, the partnership, the friendship between the United States and Mexico. Things are a little contentious right now with the border wall and things like that. We are trying a little kinder, a little gentler approach.”
Miller said Texas agriculture needs a safe, reliable guest worker program. “We have to expand the current guest worker program we have. We do not have enough agricultural workers. I don’t like the coyotes, I don’t like the human trafficking, I don’t like the drug smuggling so, part of that, to be successful, is building a border wall so we can have safe, secure, legal immigration. For agriculture, we have to have those guest workers.”
Asked by the Rio Grande Guardian if Texas needs more agriculture inspection officers at land ports of entry, Miller said: “Sixty percent of fresh produce comes through Pharr, Texas, so we have to keep up. It is not like manufacturing goods that can sit and wait. Fresh produce is time sensitive and perishable. We need to do whatever it takes to get these inspections rolling in a timely manner. This is one thing the Governor Cabeza de Vaca and I have worked closely on.”
The swearing in ceremony was held on a bitterly cold day under a tent a few hundred yards from the southbound tolls. Dozens of trucks rolled by during the event. It attracted many growers, shippers and customs brokers, as well as Governor García Cabeza de Vaca, many of the Governor’s Cabinet ministers, Tamaulipas state Senator Ismael García Cabeza de Vaca, the brother of the governor, and Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez. PSJA ISD’s Future Farmers of America opened and closed the event.
Hollis Rutledge, the veteran political consultant, came up with the idea of Miller having his swearing in ceremony at the bridge. Asked why the idea appealed, Miller said: “It is kind of boring, everybody gets sworn in in Austin. I wanted to go to the Valley, I wanted to go to the international bridge. I wanted to invite the Governor of Tamaulipas, my friend. Let’s spread the love.”
In his speech, Miller noted that agriculture is a six-billion dollar industry in Texas. Speaking to reporters later he said it is the second most important industry in the Lone Star State, with Texas leading the nation in the export of cattle, cotton, wool and other agricultural products.
“You heard the governor say this: $1 billion of trade crosses our international bridges every day. Fourteen thousand trucks, back and forth every day. That is how important our trade is. It is huge,” Miller told reporters.
In his speech, Miller said: “This river (the Rio Grande) separates the United States from Mexico. It also separates the state of Texas from Tamaulipas. But it does not separate the partnerships we have with our neighbors. Governor, thank you for being here today.”
Miller also thanked Mayor Hernandez and the Pharr leadership for hosting him. “This area is such a great economic hub for our state and sometimes you get a little overlooked. We wanted to shine a light on you. You are a vital part of the economy and an economic hub for Texas so it is an honor to come down here.”
Miller finished his speech by announcing some of his policy goals for his new term in office. He said a top legislative priority is tackling personal identification theft that happens at fuel pump stations. He said he wants to continue to work on Texas’ school nutrition program by bringing more farm fresh produce into schools. He said he also wants to improve port facilities for the export of livestock, ensure the state is safe when it comes to bio-security, and open up trade offices in places like Argentina, Singapore and India.
“I hope by the time I have finished I have been the best agriculture commissioner Texas has ever had. That is what Texas deserves,” Miller said, noting that “for the rest of your life, three times a day you are going to need a farmer.”
Like Miller, Governor García Cabeza de Vaca stressed the importance of international relations and cooperation.
“In modern history there has never been a closer relationship between two states in terms of international trade than that between Texas and Tamaulipas. The continued partnership between Texas and Tamaulipas is second to none. We have worked side by side since I took office in 2016. We have achieved goals that have expanded both Texas’ and Tamaulipas’ agriculture to benefit producers and consumers,” García Cabeza de Vaca said in his speech.
“As you know, trade through the State of Tamaulipas and Texas is over $1 billion a day. Thousands of trucks and people pour over our ports of entry that add value, mutual benefit and vibrant economies.”
García Cabeza de Vaca said he is looking forward to building on the foundations he has laid to “expand opportunities and ensure the common goal of increasing trade between our two states.” At the same time, he said, consumers would be protected on both sides of the border. “Our friendship knows no borders.”
García Cabeza de Vaca invited those in the audience to visit Tamaulipas.
“We have opened up a pipeline of communication that never existed before, directly benefiting producers and consumers. But, we know we have much more to do. We are just getting started. I know that working together we will build a brighter and more vibrant future on both sides of the border,” the governor said.
Speaking to Miller, García Cabeza de Vaca said: “Texas and Tamaulipas is open for business and our administration will continue to work with you in exploring ways to increase agricultural trade between both states. Commissioner, again, congratulations. God Bless Texas and God Bless Tamaulipas.”