Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Friday an immediate halt to the state’s enhanced inspections of Mexican trucks that had been delaying U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables as well as U.S. exports of poultry to Mexican buyers for more than a week.

Abbott, after explaining that he had reached new security deals with Mexican border states, said in a press conference that cross-border traffic returned to normal Friday.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas had estimated that Abbott’s inspections — which took place after the cargo had already been inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection — resulted in produce losses of $240 million.

The Texas governor said he had put the inspections in place April 6 to address Mexican cartels’ smuggling of drugs and people. It led to Mexican truckers blocking traffic on the Mexican side of the border at one of the busiest crossings.

“As we are speaking this moment, all these bridges are opened back up to normal trafficking. All the goods that used to go from one country to the other at a very rapid pace – they are moving at that rapid pace as we speak right now,” Abbott said.

Still, Abbott warned, the threat to trade is not over. He pledged to maintain vigilance and reinstate the measures or even shut down bridges completely if he is not satisfied that security is tight enough.

Ukraine to use Lithuania port for grain export

Ukrainian farmers will be able to use the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda to export corn and other ag commodities, according to the consulting firm APK Inform. The two countries are working to sink railway lines and run shipments through Poland to get to the port.

“We are cooperating with Ukrainian for several weeks,” said Lithuanian Minister of Transport & Communications Marius Skuodis, who was quoted by APK Inform. “Coordination between railways are the most important.”

The Lithuanian ministry said in a tweet that it is also working closely with the European Union to help transport grain out of Ukraine.

EPA proposes RFS pathway for canola oil as advanced biofuel

Growers of canola would have a new outlet for their grain under an EPA proposal being published today in the Federal Register.

EPA determined, based on a greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle analysis, that renewable diesel, jet fuel, naphtha, liquefied petroleum gas and heating oil produced from canola oil “reduce GHG emissions by at least 50 percent compared to petroleum,” the U.S. Canola Association said.

“Canola oil-based biofuels are cleaner-burning alternatives to petroleum that can replace or be blended with it,” the association said. “Renewable diesel, for example, is a ‘drop-in’ biofuel that is chemically similar to petroleum so it can be used in existing transportation vehicles at 100 percent replacement without blending.”

The comment period on the proposal runs until May 18.

Grower groups file amicus in Supreme Court ‘waters’ case

U.S. farm groups have joined numerous other groups who have filed amicus briefs supporting a pair of Idaho landowners challenging the definition of “waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and grower groups filed a brief Friday backing Chantell and Michael Sackett, who were (but no longer are) subject to an enforcement action for filling wetlands on their property.

The Supreme Court will be reviewing whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals properly upheld the federal government’s test for determining whether those wetlands were jurisdictional.

For growers, “whether the land they farm or for which they produce farm-critical nutrients includes ‘waters of the United States’ is a question of enormous practical importance,” the groups say in their brief. “They need certainty on that question to adequately manage their land in a financially and environmentally sustainable manner.”

The case is expected to be argued this summer. 

Feeding America asks Congress for additional food assistance support

A major anti-hunger organization is asking Congress to increase funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and extend child nutrition waivers to help with rising food inflation rates.

Feeding America, which is comprised of over 200 food banks in the U.S., said in a press release Friday it would like to see Congress allocate an additional $900 million to TEFAP, a program that allows the USDA to purchase foods and allocate them to state agencies for distribution.

The group also asked legislators to consider purchasing foods with Commodity Credit Corporation funding and using authority under Section 32 — which allows Congress to take some funding from customs receipts to purchase surplus commodities — to obtain resources for additional USDA nutrition program food purchases.

Take note: The group says its member food banks are paying 40% more for food purchases than in 2021. At the same time, over 85% of Feeding America's 200-member food banks have reported seeing the demand for food assistance increase or stay the same. 

NPPC to USTR: Don’t let Panama backtrack on trade deal

The U.S. and Panama implemented a free trade agreement 10 years ago, but now the Panamanian government wants to change the terms of the pact and the National Pork Producers Council is asking the Biden administration to say no.

Panama is still reducing tariffs and increasing quotas for U.S. ag commodities under the deal and the country should not be allowed to change course, says NPPC. 

NPPC says it and other U.S. ag groups are warning the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA that “making modifications to an implemented TPA would be an alarming precedent to set.” 

Noah Wicks and Steve Davies contributed to this report. Questions, comments, tips? Email bill@agri-pulse.com