Because the current economic situation was not already precarious enough, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to do his part to make the country’s rising food costs and supply chain shortages worse.
Last week, Abbott issued an executive order requiring border crossing agents to conduct “enhanced safety inspections” of trucks entering the United States. As CNN reported over the weekend, these lengthier inspections, allegedly intended to minimize drug smuggling and human trafficking, caused massive backlog at the Texas-Mexico border, resulting in trucks sitting at the border for upwards of 30 hours as the fresh avocados, tomatoes, and other perishable goods they transported rotted in the heat. Experts estimate that the move resulted in losses of more than $240 million dollars across multiple industries, a stunningly ironic show of the kind of fiscal conservatism that Abbott prides himself on.
It seems wild that the decisions of one man could have such a massive ripple effect on the economy more broadly, but more than $9 billion in produce crosses the Texas-Mexico border each year. Most of the country’s fresh food imports come from Mexico, and any interruption in that relationship is inevitably going to have an impact on consumers via food shortages and, of course, ever-higher prices. And considering that food prices in this country are already rising at an unprecedented rate, this isn’t exactly the time for Abbott to throw yet another wrench into the works.
In this completely pointless flex of his own power to enforce xenophobic immigration policies, Abbott also managed to harm businesses like restaurants, grocery stores, and farms. Deliveries to food service businesses were delayed over the holiday weekend, which meant shortages at some supermarkets, and countless pounds of produce had to be destroyed — or sold at a deeply discounted cost. One produce grower and distributor told the Texas Tribune that every day of fewer trucks than expected has a trickle-down effect: “Every day that goes by that we haven’t been able to receive these loads, those are sales dollars that we will not get back. Those are dollars that are not going to be returned to our employees’ paychecks, because they didn’t work.” For a guy who prides himself on being eminently pro-business, Abbott doesn’t seem to care much about the impact of his political power plays on the businesses who rely on the importation of produce and other essentials from Mexico.
Facing reelection later this year, Abbott has really been On One about immigration lately. He has loudly criticized President Biden’s plans to eliminate a Trump-era policy that sends asylum seekers back to their home country, and his administration has cruelly sent at least two busloads of undocumented asylum-seekers to Washington D.C. so that politicians there would “have to respond and deal with” the “border crisis.” Just like this weekend’s border backlog, though, that crisis has also been manufactured by Abbott.
There is no real border crisis in Texas, but there is one in the food supply chain. Even Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller, a man who once described a group of immigrants as venomous “rattlesnakes,” among other deeply offensive and ignorant views, condemned Abbott’s decision as “political theatre.” “This is not solving the border problem, it is increasing the cost of food and adding to supply chain shortages,” Miller said in a statement. “Such a misguided program is going to quickly lead to $2 lemons, $5 avocados and worse.” Prices of pretty much every grocery staple are up across the board, and those high costs are expected to continue for at least the next several months. The last thing we need right now is Greg Abbott making the entire country’s grocery bill even higher than it was before just to score a few measly political points.