PHARR, RGV – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan have welcomed the USMCA trade deal that builds on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Miller and Bazan spoke about the agreement reached between the United States, Mexico and Canada, at a celebration for the new fresh produce season at the Pharr International Bridge.
“The new trade deal is great. We did not have any problems with Mexico, we got those sorted out early on, the problem was the Canadians not taking our wheat and mile and diary products, but, they finally came to the table and did what was right,” Miller told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 F.M.
“The new agreement is basically free trade and no tariffs. Everybody wins, the farmers win, the packers and shippers win and ultimately the consumers win, because they have a consistent supply of food, fruit and vegetables they can rely on all year round, without high tariffs added on top of it. This one of those times that everybody wins.”
“It is not a done deal yet. It still has to be ratified by Congress. But, it is good. We have all three countries at the table, nodding their heads in the same direction, that is good. I think we will have a good outcome,” Bazan said.
“It may be challenging for Mexico with regard to automobiles but there will be more jobs for the U.S. We are tied at the hip with Mexico and Canada. It is in our interest to have a viable and flexible agreement.”
In recent years, the Pharr Bridge Board has hosted a celebration of the fresh produce season, the event a reflection of the fact that the Pharr Bridge has become the No. 1 crossing point for fresh produce between Mexico and the United States.
Last year, Pharr crossed almost 160,000 loads of fresh produce – 5,000 more loads than the next closest competitor, Nogales International Bridge in Arizona. Fresh produce industry leaders expect Pharr to top 200,000 loads of fresh produce a year before too long. They note that two thirds of the fresh produce eaten in Texas comes from Mexico. Among the fresh fruit and vegetables imported from Mexico are mangos, avocados, limes, berries, broccoli.
Texas itself produced over 60 crops, with an annual value of $900 million. Much of it is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Couple that with the imports coming in from Mexico and the region is No. 1 region for fresh produce year round.
“These are exciting times for us. We do this every year. This year the intent was to bring in more of the importers, the growers. My job as bridge director and my bridge team is to get out there and visit with these folks, get to know their product, go visit them in their homelands. They are producing the top produce in the country, it is in our interest to move this product along,” Bazan said.
“We are the No. 1 bridge in the nation for fresh produce, we are crossing over 60 percent of the fresh produce grown in Mexico. It is a big celebration, we do it for the produce industry. Some of these folks have been in the business for generation after generation. It is a momentous occasion for Pharr, we are expected to grow this year, even more than last year. We are going to build the necessary infrastructure to keep this business in Pharr.”
Miller said he was delighted to be at the event.
“We always want to support our growers and farmers and shippers and pickers and brokers and packers. Our chain is only as strong as our weakest link. This is a great event. People need to realize how important the Pharr Bridge is to our economy. In one year, $33 billion in produce will come across this bridge. This means 8,000 direct jobs locally. It is a big part of our economy,” Miller said.
Here is the City of Pharr news release about the 2018-2019 Fresh Produce Season:
PHARR, Texas – Amid a backdrop of vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables, the Pharr International Bridge held a special event to commemorate the start of the 2018-2019 produce season, celebrating the occasion alongside produce growers, importers, distributors, consumers, dignitaries from Mexico and the United States, and special guest Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
“Pharr is proud to be the largest land port of entry for fruits and vegetables,” remarked Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D. at the start of the event. “We have invested in our bridge infrastructure, technology, and have worked closely with our partners at the state and federal level to ensure that our port of entry continues to expand capacity and meet the demands of our economy,” he continued. “Produce plays an integral role in our regional and international economy, and here in Pharr we take great pride in being the gateway for these products to enter into the United States and beyond,” he added.
The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge has evolved into the largest land port for fruits and vegetables in the nation, surpassing Nogales, Arizona as the leading port of entry for Mexican produce and goods. Currently, the Pharr International Bridge crosses more than 60% of all the fresh produce coming from Mexico through Texas land ports of entry.
“The Pharr International Bridge has forged strong partnerships on both sides of the border with distributors, growers, and importers, to ensure that we are meeting the demands of the industry,” said Pharr Bridge Director Luiz Bazan. “There is no slowing down for us, in the next 3-4 years we are expecting to grow significantly.” he continued. “That is why it is important that we keep investing, planning, and working with all our partners as we continue to expand our opportunities.”
Local produce distributor Aquiles Jaime Garza, president of Bebo Distributing, was in attendance at the event and attributed the growth that his company and the local produce industry have experienced to the Pharr International Bridge. “The City of Pharr is doing great things for the city itself and for the bridge,” Garza commented. “It’s really helping our industry,” he added.
The U.S. has consistently remained Mexico’s No. 1 trading partner for produce and goods and Pharr’s ideal geographical location has resulted in not only a great partnership between the two countries, but also in the growth of their produce trading capacity.
“The City of Pharr has done a remarkable job working with the produce industry in Texas and in Mexico as they continue to lead the way as the number one port of entry in Texas,” remarked Commissioner Sid Miller. “The economic impact of the food and fiber sector totals more than $100 billion annually,” he said. “Working together, we have accomplished many great things for the bridge and I look forward to our continued partnership as we plan for future growth and expansion here in Pharr,” he continued.
With Pharr’s produce park nearly filled with cold storage, ripening facilities and more, growth in the produce industry in Pharr is expected to continue at a steady pace.