> The Zipline

The Crisis at Our Border

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: AFBF Photo/Terri Moore

All along our nation’s southern border a crisis has unfolded. Farmers and ranchers have sounded the alarm on a situation that is threatening the safety of both families living near the border and those eager to enter the U.S. Just last week, all 50 state Farm Bureaus, Puerto Rico Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau called on the Biden administration to act. Meanwhile, stories flood in from farmers and ranchers at the frontlines of this crisis.

Stephanie Crisp-Canales has lived in Southern Texas all her life. She ranches just 50 miles from the border. Over the past decade, she has watched as the number of people illegally crossing the border has dramatically increased and mode of crossing has also changed. When she was younger, Stephanie said those crossing were usually families, who would knock on their door looking for food or water. When her family provided it, the migrants would offer to do a small job around the farm as a way to say thank you. But today, human smugglers, known as Coyotes, cram desperate migrants into vehicles that barrel through Stephanie's property, destroying fences, water supplies and gates when they are pursued by law enforcement. Stephanie also shared how ranchers she knows have been attacked while opening a gate because a group wanted to take their vehicle and now, she and her husband are always watching each other’s back when opening a gate.

Farm and ranch families living on or near the border have witnessed and been affected by illegal border crossings for decades, but never before have the crossings been so destructive.

Stephanie isn’t alone in fearing for her safety. John Paul Schuster and Bill Martin from Texas explained how people in their communities have had their homes and vehicles broken into and ATVs stolen. Farmers and ranchers have explained how they won’t leave home on their own, have started carrying a weapon with them everywhere and tell their children not to go out of sight.

Many people are making the life-threatening journey to get to the U.S., some just children. For example, in Texas, Kate Hobbs's husband was driving around, inspecting their fields when he came across five young girls abandoned on the side of a field along the river. These children, who all looked younger than ten years old, appeared to have been left to fend for themselves. Luckily, the Hobbs family and their employees were able to provide immediate care for the children.

Farm and ranch families living on or near the border have witnessed and been affected by illegal border crossings for decades, but never before have the crossings been so destructive. When fences are cut and gates are destroyed or left open, it can be devastating to cattle. Animals can be injured trying to get through cut wire, end up in a pasture with no water, or wander onto roads, posing a danger to themselves and humans. Ranchers also raise different breeds of cattle and have varying vaccination protocols for their animals so keeping them separate is essential to herd health.

When groups of migrants make it into the U.S., they cast off anything they don't need for the next part of their journey. Farmers and ranchers often find backpacks, clothes, shoes, trash and other items left behind. These trashed items may seem like nothing more than a nuisance but can be dangerous for animals, especially if consumed.

Stories like these have come to light as state Farm Bureaus in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California led an effort to bring attention to the issue and to call on the federal government to provide resources and solutions. And now, across Farm Bureau, we have raised our united voice to call on the administration to address this continuing crisis and bring relief to those left vulnerable. We stand ready to work together to find solutions to these challenges and to ease the suffering of those looking for a better life.

Zippy Duvall

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.