Presidio Cattle Industry Threatened By USDA Changes 9/1/13
CBS 7 News
September 1, 2013
For more than a century, Presidio has been a crucial point of entry from Mexico for the cattle industry.
Now ranchers and buyers say a move by the US Government not to allow inspections in Ojinaga is threatening the industry in both countries.
One of the biggest cattle pens in Presidio is now empty, a harrowing sign of the problem in presidio.
“People ask us when are the cattle coming back?” said Presidio Cattle Buyer Salvador Baeza.
Salvador Baeza has been buying cattle from Mexico for 30 years. Since the USDA stopped sending inspectors to Ojinaga, cattle numbers coming across the border plummeted. Baeza says the new temporary Presidio facility is under-equipped and the change forces ranchers to unload multiple times at the border
“Now they have to load them in Mexico, load them on this side, inspect the cattle, load the cattle again then bring them to the pens. That’s where the cattle shrink a lot, and the Mexican ranchers don’t like that,” said Baeza. “So they are going to move somewhere else.”
In July 2012, 18,968 cattle crossed to presidio from Mexico, by September 2012, when the changes passed—just 2,000 crossed.
This inspection facility in Ojinaga is all but closed—industry experts tell us more than 200 workers have lost their jobs here and in presidio due to the changes.
“Restaurants, hotels, gas stations are affected when the ranchers come,” said Ojinaga Cattle Export Contractor Severo Santiago. “We’re talking about losses of thousands of dollars in Texas an Ojinaga.”
CBS 7 asked the USDA why they stopped Ojinaga inspections.
“I don’t know all the details but there are some details that arose that there is concern for employee safety,” said Assistant Area Veterinarian In Charge Of Imports/Exports For Texas Jim Amend of the USDA.
City and county officials and even Senators have asked the USDA to return operations. They say as long as they inspections in other Mexican cities, Ojinaga should be no exception.
“Those inconsistencies have crippled us and favored Santa Teresa,” said City of Presidio Special Projects Coordinator Carlos Nieto.
For an industry that’s called Presidio-Ojinaga home for over 80 years, it’s hard to imagine its end.
“We’ve been doing it all our lives, what else can we do? In Presidio, we hate to move, but I don’t know what else to do,” Baeza said.
There are no plans to build a permanent inspection facility in presidio, and they do not know when or if another evaluation of security in Ojinaga will take place.
The USDA says drought and the cyclical nature of the business is to blame for part of the decrease in cattle imports from Mexico.