Nogales- In order to reduce bottlenecks of commercial shipments at the U.S.-Mexico border, the government should improve inter-agency cooperation – including data sharing – and recognize the need to increase Customs & Border Protection staffing as a means to minimize crossing times.
Those are two key recommendations of a new report co-sponsored by The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other parties. The purpose of this in-depth report was to create a concise outline on the importance of the U.S. – Mexico relationship that could be easily provided to policy leaders and the general public. Download the full report
Titled “Steps to a 21st Century U.S. – Mexico Border,” the report focuses on the following key components and provides recommendations on how to achieve those goals:
Framework for Border Security
Chain Security and Trade Facilitation
Investment in Infrastructure
“We fully support a safe and secure border, including the ports of entry. Customs and Border Protection needs all the tools at their disposal, including not just technology but also adequate levels of personnel to facilitate the legal crossing of goods and people,” said Jaime Chamberlain, Chairman of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and President of J-C Distributing, Inc., Nogales, Ariz.
“When you recognize that trucks of goods are waiting six or seven hours in line to get across the border, you know something is wrong with the system. The United States and Mexico need to work together to address shortcomings with Customs and food safety testing delays,” said Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz.
Jungmeyer said the prescription for success is to ensure that Ports of Entry are effectively staffed to the needs desired to efficiently move goods and people across the border.
“You don’t have excessively long lines at Customs for produce trucks coming into the U.S. from Canada,” Jungmeyer said. “The United States has the responsibility to live up to its obligations to provide free and fair trade to NAFTA partners. When Customs is understaffed, that is an effective barrier to trade.”
Another issue is the long delays in getting back microbial testing results from the Food and Drug Administration, which samples the fruits and vegetables at the border, where it is held until the test comes back “in the clear.”
:The results are supposed to be back in three to five days, but too often the test results take much longer, sometimes up to two weeks. When you are dealing in perishable fruits and vegetables that must then be thrown away, that is an unacceptable outcome,” he said.
Jungmeyer recommended that FDA begin testing some of the newer “rapid-result” tests that provide results in a matter of hours. “The technology is there. FDA needs to evaluate it and confirm that the rapid tests deliver accurate results.”
Additionally, if FDA fully utilized certain data sets that are already being collected by CBP, then FDA would be able to become more efficient in identifying and processing loads that should be tested.
As an example, the FDA and CBP have some interconnectivity in their computer systems. When the FDA has not reviewed a shipment in their Oasis system to determine if they want to hold the shipment or “may proceed” the shipment is not released in the CBP system pending FDA review. The review is often delayed due to hours of operation for FDA personnel or work flow management of electronic information waiting for release. Even though a majority of these shipments will be approved, trucks often must wait in secondary inspection areas at ports of entry, using valuable dock space that could be devoted to inspections by FDA, CBP, USDA/APHIS, ICE, DEA and ATF, among other government agencies, resulting in congestion at ports of entry and delays in crossing times. Coordination of hours of operation and better integration of IT systems could help eliminate commercial losses for importers.
The study supports the concept of synchronization with the U.S. federal government processes. If a government agency has hold authority, it should choose one of two ways to execute that authority: the agency should have staff with the authority to resolve the hold at the port of entry during CBP processing times, or the agency should delegate the authority to CBP to resolve the hold.
In addition to work from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this report was produced in partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico and U.S. Chamber member companies, as well as sponsors, Con-way Inc, The Express Association of America, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Purolator, Ryder, and the Transportation Intermediaries Association.
The FPAA is a non-profit trade association representing U.S. companies involved in importing fresh produce from Mexico. For more information, please visit www.freshfrommexico.com.