Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the number of Texans seeking food bank assistance has risen 200%. This dramatic increase in food insecurity has caused immeasurable stress and suffering, eroding the health and wellbeing of people across the state. In the midst of this greatly increased need for help, the surplus agricultural products grant, a key aspect of food bank support, has been drastically cut. If this reduction remains in place, the opportunity to acquire almost 20 million pounds of healthy local produce will be lost. Hunger involves quantifiable economic costs in the form of increased health care and social service needs, inferior educational outcomes, and lost productivity. The Perryman Group estimates that cutting the surplus agricultural products grant would cost the state economy hundreds of millions of dollars over time, with economic harms spreading across the entire economy. Because economic activity generates taxes, the cut would also lead to reductions in State and local taxes. State costs for health care and education would also rise due to the effects of hunger.
Every day, thousands of trucks cross the Texas-Mexico border, bringing a variety of goods ranging from fruits and vegetables to electronic equipment. Cross-border supply chains are common, and manufacturing facilities on both sides of the border depend on the efficient flow of products across the border. The recent slowdowns due to additional inspections disrupted these patterns, resulting in not only spoilage of perishable items, but also production delays. Given the strained capacity at the border in normal times, it will be difficult and, in many instances, impossible to “catch up.”
The recent extreme winter weather is unprecedented in Texas. Records were shattered, and the demands on the power grid were exceptional. When brutal conditions took down about 40% of generation capacity (wind turbines and conventional plants alike), disaster struck. Most people had to deal with power outages (sometimes for days in freezing temperatures) and millions had no water (again for an extended period).