Date: Jan 06, 2011

IRVINE, CA. (January 6, 2011)

Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke personally by phone with Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif with news that the United States government has offered a proposal to the government of Mexican that may lead to an end of the nearly two-year-long dispute of the Cross Border Trucking Pilot Program. Western Growers has been very active working with several federal agencies including USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative since March of 2009, to bring this program back as the specialty crop industry, particularly producers of pears, grapes, and almonds have seen sales to Mexico drop considerably due to the high tariffs levied by Mexico on these, and other, U.S. imports in retaliation of the U.S. government’s termination of the pilot trucking program. It is estimated that about $900 million in U.S. agriculture products have been impacted by the retaliatory tarrifs.

“We welcome this news as a positive first step in resolving a serious problem that has been detrimental to many of our growers and shippers in California and Arizona,” said Nassif. “It is our hope that the United States government will reach a favorable agreement with Mexico and that the U.S. Congress will be ready and willing to consider and support a plan that is reasonable and fair.”

The proposal was issued today from the U.S. Department of Transportation to form the basis for a negotiation to resolve the cross-border trucking dispute with Mexico: . In his conversation with Nassif, Secretary Vilsack identified five truck safety issues that he said were reasonable and necessary to resolve the dispute. These include requirements that drivers have good driving records and understand U.S. and state driving laws; drivers can speak sufficient English; vehicles are safe to drive and comply with emissions standards; vehicles be inspected and carriers have safety management programs in place.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and about 75 percent of the fresh fruits and tree nuts in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s supply of fresh produce.

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