Published online: May 23, 2011 Potato Storage
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It appears the Obama administration still is moving toward signing an agreement with Mexico to end a trucking dispute and remove Mexican tariffs on U.S. goods. A 30-day public comment period on the administration's proposed pilot trucking program ended May 13.

Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, said he's heard nothing to indicate the administration is backing away from its timeline of signing an agreement in late May or early June.

Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, sent a letter to Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, on May 12 supporting the new pilot program.

Mexico slapped tariffs on a host of farm and consumer products in 2009 when the U.S. ended a pilot program that would have allowed Mexican trucks to operate on U.S. highways, a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The tariffs resulted in a 50 percent reduction in frozen potato exports from Washington to Mexico and closure of a potato processing plant costing 250 family-wage jobs, Newhouse noted.

The signing of an agreement will cut tariffs in half and approval of the first Mexican trucking firm to haul goods into the United States will eliminate the rest, he said. That may be another two to four months, he said.

Washington apples, pears, cherries and potatoes and California table grapes are among items hurt by the tariffs. The annual value of 99 products effected is estimated at $2.4 billion by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

-Source, Dan Wheat, Capital Press