(UPDATED COVERAGE,  June 9) Staffing levels for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and interagency cooperation need to increase to minimize bottlenecks fresh produce and other goods at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Those are two conclusions of a report released June 8 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, and other groups.

Called “Steps to a 21st Century U.S. — Mexico Border,” the report gives recommendations on five key goals:

  • Border security;
  • Supply chain security and trade facilitations;
  • Investment in infrastructure;
  • Immigration; and
  • Travel.

 

The Customs and Border Protection agency needs both technology and adequate staffing levels to allow efficient crossing of goods and people, Jaime Chamberlain, chairman of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas and president of J-C Distributing, Inc., Nogales, Ariz., said in a news release.

Lance Jungmeyer, President of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., said he was in Washington, D.C., June 9 presenting the document’s findings to federal agencies and members of Congress.

“So far we have met the Department of Commerce, the House Border Caucus and we will meet with the Department of Homeland Security,” he said.

He said the FPAA is stressing the need for increased harmonization between countries and between agencies of the federal government. It is not uncommon for trucks to wait six or seven hours to cross the border, he said.

Jungmeyer said there are currently nine agencies that have “hold authority” at the border.
The Customs and Border Protection needs to be able to release a shipment on behalf of other agencies when needed, he said. For example, CBP officials may be at the border until 9 p.m., while Food and Drug Administration officials may leave by 4 p.m.

Another issue, he said, are long delays in getting back microbial testing results from the FDA. While the results are supposed to be back in three to five days, sometimes the FDA takes as long as two weeks, he said.

In addition, Jungmeyer said FDA and CBP could work closer together in sharing data to speed crossings.