(April 11, 12:20 p.m.) Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff suspended more than 30 laws on April 1 in order to get things moving on a proposed fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

Laws suspended include the Farmland Protection Act, the National Historical Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Opponents, including some in the Texas Rio Grande Valley agriculture community, hope the work won’t get started before the start of the federal fiscal year in October.

John McClung, president of the Mission-based Texas Produce Association, said most in the Rio Grande Valley believe that legal challenges on behalf of environmental groups might buy enough time to prevent any major work that would affect agriculture.

“The strategy for border fence opponents has been to dig in, resist and hopefully buy enough time for a new congress and a new administration,” he said.

Those in the agriculture community are concerned that the wall, which has been planned in conjunction with improvements to levees along the Rio Grande, could cut off access to the river for irrigation water and to farmland. The southern levees along the Rio Grande are as far as two miles north of the river, McClung said. Much of the land south of the levee is farmland.

“Thousands of acres are south of the levee, which would, if this project goes ahead, be converted to a no man’s land,” he said.

Even though Chertoff suspended laws inhibiting work on the fence, Department of Homeland Security officials still must meet with landowners before it can access funds appropriated for fence building. McClung said that hasn’t happened.