It wasn't that long ago things were different along the border, especially when it came to commercial farming activities. Agriculture was a much larger industry in the Valley. More cotton was planted 30 years ago than in modern times, and the produce and vegetable industry was thriving as trucks originating in South Texas were making their way north and east across interstate highways, providing fresh produce across the nation.

But after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was ratified, things began to change. Agricultural operations began to sprout across the border in northern Mexico.  Mexican trucks filled with fruit and produce began streaming across the international bridges to newly constructed processing plants in the Valley.  South Texas became more of a crossroads for the international trade of food products and less a food producing region, and some argue it has not been a bad tradeoff.

In recent years some of the largest fruit and produce processing plants and refrigerated storage facilities in the nation have cropped up in South Texas, putting thousands to work and providing a positive impact to the local economy. It has been an arrangement widely accepted by many on both sides of the border, and lauded by some as a workable solution to the changing focus of the border region and the way food is processed and distributed in the changing global market.

While not everyone shares that same vision, most will at least agree that while the landscape of business and agriculture has changed in post-NAFTA years for better or worse, it has gone a long way in bridging the economies and cultures of both nations. While issues like border crime and security continue to threaten the region and the new- found spirit of cooperation and understanding that has developed, there is little question the region has benefited from cross-border commerce partnerships.

That is, until the rains stopped and the river began to dry. Now, some are ready to draw lines in the sand. 

 

NEXT: Part 3: Tempers flare and solutions offered as water crisis boils

 

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