An announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding a new vaccine mandate is being met with concern from agricultural groups. All non-U.S. citizens crossing the border into the United States are now required to show proof of vaccination to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers upon request. Failure to provide proof of vaccination will prevent entry into the country. Concerns about the mandate center on the ability to move fresh produce in a timely manner, further complicating existing food supply chain issues.
“DHS failed to provide proper notice of the mandate, which gives farmers, ranchers and agriculture suppliers no time to prepare,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a press release. “Farmworkers and truck drivers provide critical skills and have been designated as essential by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Further limiting the available workforce will exacerbate existing supply chain issues as families face rising prices and fewer options at the grocery store.”
Canada imposed a similar vaccine mandate which has been met with significant criticism from the trucking industry and creating issues with the country’s fresh produce markets. Truckers recently voiced their frustration, organizing a convoy across Canada to protest the cross-border vaccine mandates. The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) also raised alarm about the DHS mandate and the limited timeline to make preparations to accommodate the new rules.
“While we have been proactively supporting the public health guidelines since November, we are concerned this declaration is being finalized 24 hours from required implementation,” said Ed Treacy, IFPA Vice President of Supply Chain and Sustainability. “This will cause concerns for those responsible for adhering to this requirement as well as border officials implementing this order.”
Along with complications with the transport of produce, other concerns are related to the overall agricultural workforce. H-2A workers attempting to enter the U.S. will have to comply with the vaccine mandate. Individuals that have not received one of the vaccines approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be turned away or will wait at the border until they can receive a vaccination.