On Thursday evening, January 20, the U.S. agriculture industry was notified of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision to prevent the entry of non-U.S. citizen essential travelers, including truck drivers, into the United States who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The restrictions for both the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico border will go into effect at midnight ET tonight, January 22.
According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, an estimated 12,000 drivers could be prohibited from entering the United States under the new mandate. The vaccination requirement will likely exacerbate supply chain issues for U.S. producers and consumers alike, said NPC President and Maine potato grower Dominic LaJoie.
“This mandate – being implemented with less than 36 hours’ notice – will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the already fragile food supply chain,” said LaJoie. “Truckers currently in route to the border who are not vaccinated or without the proper documents will be turned around and told to go home. Given the incredibly abbreviated timeline for this new mandate, U.S. retail and foodservice consumers are quickly going to feel the brunt of our government’s decision.”
The mandate also will impact H-2A workers seeking to enter the country who may similarly already be in route. “NPC is vitally concerned with the short-term impacts the announcement of these travel restrictions will have on the supply chain and ensuring the industry has an adequate and reliable workforce as the 2022 crop season begins,” RJ Andrus, NPC Vice President of Legislative Affairs added.
In addition to communicating its concerns about the impact of this snap decision to federal officials, NPC is working with a rapidly forming coalition of U.S. agriculture interests seeking to minimize the massive impact this mandate will likely have on the country.
Under the temporary restrictions, which will be in place at least through April 21, 2022, all essential travelers crossing into the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals are required to be able to show proof of full vaccination. Below is a summary of the notification that will be formally published on Monday in the Federal Register (available here):
- Rules goes into effect at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 22, 2022 (midnight tonight) through April 21, 2022;
- Will apply to all noncitizens of the U.S. at all ferry and border crossings and aligns with current air travel restrictions; and,
- Will require self-declaration of approved vaccination status, with ability to provide proof upon request.