USDA cattle inspectors to return to Agua Prieta

cattleSeason almost over,  cartel members spotted north with long guns

Arizona Congressman Ron Barber announced on Monday that he has been “assured” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it will resume inspections on May 19 south of Agua Prieta, Mexico.

According to a statement released by Barber’s office, Dr. Joyce Bowling-Heyward, national director of animal imports and exports of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that USDA Veterinary Services personnel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will resume inspecting cattle.

Since January, when the government claimed it was halting inspections because of cartel violence on the Mexican side of the border, ranchers have been urging Barber and others to stop the political games in on both sides of the border and allow inspections in Mexico of U.S.-bound cattle.

After Monday’s announcement one rancher said of the timing, “Now that we are done with 90 percent of the season, they finally decide to get it done. We lost millions of dollars down here, and we are supposed to be grateful for this news now? The games being played down here with our lives are shameful.”

“Just last week, a group of 9 cartel members were spotted north near the San Pedro, with long guns, and we are supposed to think that returning government inspectors to work is heroic? They were never in danger, and even Barber admitted it was only political. If they are worried about safety they can start letting cows in and keeping cartels out.”

“I’m glad the inspections will restart next week, which is important to many ranchers and other businesses in Southern Arizona,” Barber said today. “The halt of these inspections has had a serious negative impact on the economies of Douglas and other parts of Southern Arizona.”

According to Barber’s statement, just last month he spoke with “officials at every level of USDA and wrote letters calling on USDA officials to explain their decisions to halt the inspections in Agua Prieta. Barber told the USDA he would personally escort U.S. inspectors into Mexico to demonstrate that the area is safe.”

Douglas Mayor Danny Ortega Jr., welcomed the news and said of Barber, “It is through his hard work we were able to get this far.”

Only after media coverage did Barber publically address the issues that had been just devastating the local economy. Three weeks ago, after the AZDI covered the matter, Barber said he had been given tentative notice from USDA that it would resume inspections in mid-May if the safety of inspectors could be assured and other steps were taken.

The inspections are set to start May 19.

Importers and exporters of cattle or other animals should contact the Douglas Veterinary Services port staff at 520-364-5681 to make inspection appointments.

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