Unprecedented: Biden to pay Texas ranchers, farmers for migrant damages, offers nothing new to stop flow

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The Biden administration, after pressure from ranchers and farmers, has agreed to reimburse Texan landowners for damages caused by illegal immigrants, but failed to address the ongoing crisis at the border.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday that they would be releasing funds through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide financial assistance to farmers and ranchers on the southern border.

The funding for this endeavor come from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) “which provides financial and technical assistance” to “address natural resource concerns.” The concerns in question are the “damage to fields and farming infrastructure, including fencing and water structures.”

Though the NRCS states they, “understand that the field and framing infrastructure dames along the border are costly and have a negative impact on our natural resources that our farmers and ranchers work hard to conserve,” there is no mention by the USDA of the cause of these damages or the lengths to which Texans had to go to address these serious concerns.

The Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) worked with the American Farm Bureau Federation in proposing action, not only from the USDA and the Department of the Interior, but from the Department of Homeland Security as well. In a June 2021 letter addressed to the three Cabinet secretaries in charge of those departments, the TFB highlighted the “destroyed crops, compromised water sources, vandalism” and more landowners were experience as a result of human smugglers and other criminal activity stemming from the porous border.

“We have been listening to the concerns of our members and hearing how their livelihoods are being affected by the surge on the border,” the letter reads in part. “Farm and ranch families, many of whom have owned land for generations, are bearing the brunt of this unprecedented influx and have never seen a more dire situation.”

The letter, signed by the farm bureau of every state, asked specifically for “swift action” for “additional resources” along with the enforcement of “legal immigration.” More than half a year later, the Biden administration has only just responded to damages left behind, not the serious cause for concern.

Texans have not stood idly by waiting for the Biden administration to act. In September, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) garnered the support of landowners in Del Rio to allow the state to erect “steel wall” to help curb the flow of border crossers.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), whose district has 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border running through it, helped push for this action.

“Providing this relief has been a priority for me and I appreciate my colleagues for joining me in this effort to put our farmers first,” he said, according to Texas Insider.

Gonzales has also introduced two bills, the RAPID Act and SAFE Act, to reallocate funds from the American Rescue Plan toward reimbursing landowners and to establish a grant program to help provide additional security measures, respectively.

All the while, the flow of humanity continues. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol agents and CBP officers encountered migrants 186,003 times in January. While the number is down from 205,685 in December, the number is nearly double the 95,276 encounters in January 2021.


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