New U.S. rule requires foreign truck drivers be vaccinated to enter country
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that foreign essential workers such as truck drivers must now also be vaccinated in order to enter the country, which could cause further disruption for the fresh produce industry.
The Biden administration first announced in October that effective Nov. 8 it would again allow non-essential foreign visitors to travel from Canada and Mexico into the U.S. across land borders if they were vaccinated.
The U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico had been closed to non-essential travel for 20 months because of Covid-19 concerns.
DHS is announcing on Thursday it is extending those requirements to essential workers who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Starting Saturday DHS "will require that non-U.S. individuals entering the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals along our Northern and Southern borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and prepared to show related proof of vaccination," said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
This enforcement will not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. nationals.
The newly formed International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) - a merger between The Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association - said on Friday that the move would cause concern for the industry, which is already facing a shortage of truck drivers.
Given the volumes of fresh fruits and vegetables that flow across North American borders, IFPA Chief Public Policy Officer Robert Guenther has already shared the associations concerns to DHS Assistant Secretary Eva A. Millona on the impact this is going to have on the entire food supply chain, not just produce, which is already experiencing extreme challenges.
“The fresh produce industry has been proactively encouraging our employers and employees to comply with federal, state and local requirements regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccinations with significant success,” Guenther noted.
We’ve continued to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to the global food supply chain despite disruptions caused by health and labor challenges. Part of prioritizing public health and safety is ensuring access to a safe, abundant food supply remains uninterrupted."
IFPA Vice President of Supply Chain and Sustainability Ed Treacy said: “While we have been proactively supporting the public health guidelines since the first reports of this policy in November, we are concerned that this final declaration is being finalized 24 hours from its required implementation.
"In turn, this will cause great concerns for those responsible for adhering to this requirement as well as officials at the border who have to implement this new order starting [on Saturday].”