Likewise, the cumulative negative effect on fresh pear growers is close to $11 million, Power said.
“That’s coming straight out of the growers’ pockets,” he said.
The letter to the administration officials said that despite expressions of confidence from the Obama administration for 11 months, a solution would be found that would fulfill U.S. obligations to Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement the letter said there is still vision for what the proposed plan will be.
“Our constituents need help immediately and we implore you to work quickly to implement a program that ensures safety and normalizes trade between the U.S. and Mexico,” the letter said.
Powers said a recent USDA listening session about rural economic development in Washington State had growers point out to Administration officials that solving the tariff problem would create instant opportunity and sales for growers.
Meanwhile, he said that U.S. also must show it adheres to its trade obligations to have credibility with other trading partners.
Ag industry decries tariffs
The Alliance to Keep U.S. Jobs, a coalition of agriculture and industry leaders seeking an end to the retaliatory tariffs, said more than $1.5 billion in U.S. manufactured products and $900 million in U.S. agriculture are hurt by the added costs of exporting to Mexico.
“It’s crazy when you have the administration saying on one hand it is all about jobs, jobs, jobs and you don’t fix this problem,” said John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based National Potato Council. Keeling said U.S. frozen potato exports to Mexico are off 50% in value and 60% in volume over the past year, while Canadian exports to Mexico are up 70%.
“The ball has been in the administration’s court to move this forward,” said Kam Quarles, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C. Union support for elimination of the pilot program appears to be contributing to the delay in solving the problem, he said. Quarles said simply restoring the program that had been in place could likely solve the problem in short order.
That pilot program allowed limited access for Mexican trucks on U.S. highways. It began in 2007, six years after a North American Free Trade Agreement dispute settlement panel ruled that the U.S. was in violation of the NAFTA by prohibiting Mexican trucks in the U.S.
“It wasn’t everything the Mexicans wanted under NAFTA, but it was accepted,” Quarles said.
Given the letter from Cardoza and Larsen, Quarles said there is frustration on Capitol Hill about the how much time it is taking to restore the pilot program and remove the retaliatory tariffs.