Update from Congressman Pete Gallego

I’ve been the elected representative of the 23rd District of Texas for nearly 18 months now – and I’ve learned a lot. Some things I’m glad I learned. Some things not so much. No two days are the same. Some days are more frustrating than others. But, every day I focus on one thing: serving people.

I love the job because it allows me to help people. At home in Texas, I listen closely to constituents – teachers, doctors, farmers and ranchers, veterans and active duty members of our Armed Forces. Through them, I am able to see evidence each day that my office makes a difference. Sometimes, it’s an amendment to a bill that helps focus efforts on an issue like domestic violence or the high rate of suicide in our military. Other times, I am able to poke and prod federal agencies until they do the right thing.

That was the case several days ago in Presidio. The Presidio port of entry was for many years the number one cattle crossing in the country. Much of the beef served in homes and restaurants around the country came through Presidio. The cattle industry was a HUGE part of the local economy. 

Yet, without reason or warning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture essentially closed the port of entry to the cattle industry by closing its inspection station. The station was closed for nearly two years.

On Monday, June 23, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed inspectors to return to the Presidio-Ojinaga USDA inspection station at Ganadera Chihuahua to process cattle from Mexico to the U.S.

 The re-opening of the Ganadera Chihuahua inspection station breathes new economic life into a community hit hard by the USDA’s sudden decision to remove inspectors in 2012. The decision means dollars for the local economy. And, dollars earned in Presidio don’t just stay in Presidio. They circulate throughout the entire Big Bend and Trans-Pecos region.

 Getting the facility re-opened was a top priority for me. It took effort to get the USDA to offer anything more than excuses. It took innumerable phone calls and meetings, relentless insistence on answers and finally direct questioning of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack himself during a congressional hearing. I also had help from both the Republican chair and Democratic ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. As is my tradition, I work across the political spectrum to find friends for our region.

A few weeks ago, to underscore for the USDA that our area is safe, I even walked over to Ojinaga and down the main street – crossing the bridge on foot from Presidio to Ojinaga accompanied by local officials like Mayor John Ferguson and Judge Paul Hunt as well as State Department employees. I spent several hours there and visited the inspection station to see the improvements that have been made.

 Now that the station is re-opened, some 2,500 cattle a day are expected to be processed into the U.S. from Mexico – thereby creating jobs in Presidio and generating millions of dollars in revenue that will circulate through our region. 

Those of us who live in Big Bend Country know that when one of our communities does well, we all do well. It’s a regional economy where everyone wins together. This is such a win. I’m happy to say that Presidio and Ojinaga are both open for business and the cattle trade again.

U.S. Representative Pete P. Gallego, D-Alpine, represents the 23rd District of Texas, which includes all or parts of 29 counties in southwest Texas, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. He serves on the House Armed Services and House Agriculture Committees.