The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) hailed today the recent release by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) of proposed details for the phased implementation of a long-haul, cross-border trucking program between the United States and Mexico, a program that the department says emphasizes safety, while satisfying international obligations of the United States.
In a letter today to House Speaker Boehner, House Minority Leader Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Minority Leader McConnell, NMPF and USDEC urged all members of Congress to support swift progress towards putting in place an agreed-upon resolution so that the retaliatory tariffs can be lifted and trade can be normalized in Mexico, the number one export market for U.S. dairy products.
The trucking program is crucial to the U.S. dairy sector, since many U.S. cheese exports have been subjected to legally-imposed retaliatory tariffs by Mexico since last August. As a result, shipments of the targeted cheeses fell by 60 percent between August 2010 and February 2011, the latest month of available data.
The DOT announcement represents the first critical step towards resolution laid out by Presidents Obama and Calderon in early March. As DOT reaffirmed today, the plan calls for a 30-day comment period once the Federal Register Notice is published this week, followed by a period of approximately 30 days for DOT to assess comments. Subsequently, DOT will publish a Final Federal Register Notice addressing comments received and describing the implementation process of the project. Once a final agreement is signed—estimated to take place in approximately 60 days—Mexico will suspend its retaliatory tariffs on all products by 50 percent and then will suspend the remaining 50 percent when the first Mexican carrier is approved to cross the border.
“It is deeply heartening to see the Administration dedicated to moving forward in a timely manner to put in place a program that will uphold strong safety standards for U.S. roads and fully resolve the trucking dispute so that dairy producers and processors are no longer caught in the cross-fire of this issue,” said Tom Suber, president of USDEC. “Valued at $837 million last year, Mexico is our largest dairy export market and we want to ensure that we remain their number one source of dairy products.”
“We applaud the commitment by both the United States and Mexico to take swift action to follow through on the March agreement by Presidents Obama and Calderon to restore our ability to service the fast-growing Mexican dairy market,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “Making the most of this market, as well as others around the world is vital to supporting our dairy producer community.”