It’s been over two months since Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told a Senate hearing that a solution to the Mexico truck program issue was “very near.”
LaHood was appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, which is one of 12 subcommittees of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
He was there to explain the DOT’s budget request for FY2011.
In his prepared text, LaHood covered highway safety, “NextGen” (the program to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system), high speed rail, rail transit safety, the transportation infrastructure, livability and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, but nothing about the Mexico truck issue, which has been in the news and on the minds of most in the transportation sector since Congress killed the Cross Border Demonstration Project early last year.
So when it came time for questions, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked about it.
“We are finalizing a plan. The reason it is taking so long is there are a lot of moving parts. We are very near a proposal that will meet Congress’ safety concerns,” LaHood told Murray.
“The [Obama] Administration is still working hard toward a proposal that both satisfies the legitimate concerns of Congress and upholds our international agreements,” a DOT spokesperson told The Trucker last week.
But Murray is apparently tired of waiting and has a good reason for her impatience.
Her home state was hit hard by the tariffs Mexico imposed on certain imports as a retaliatory measure after Congress killed the pilot project.
The tariff in part contributed to a $19.7million decline in the value of exported Washington agricultural products — excluding soybeans and rice — to Mexico in 2009 compared with 2008, according to the Washington Department of Agriculture.
And that state’s potato growers are feeling the worst of it because Mexico included frozen potatoes among the tariffs and Mexico is the No. 2 international export market for Washington frozen potatoes.
According to the Washington State Potato Commission 20,000 jobs are supported by the potato industry alone in Washington state, and thousands of these would be threatened if this issue is not resolved soon.
So with the growing season rapidly approaching and — like everywhere else in the U.S. — hundreds of those in her home state looking for work, Murray met with Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan to discuss the impact of Mexican tariffs on Washington state families, jobs, and the agriculture industry.
Murray said she urged the Mexican government to end the retaliatory tariffs that are harming Washington state families, and to use Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s upcoming visit to Washington, D.C. as an opportunity to resolve the differences.
“I feel very strongly that Washington state farmers and families shouldn’t be punished for a diplomatic dispute they had nothing to do with,” Murray said to Sarukhan. “I urge the Mexican government to take a hard look at their list of retaliatory tariffs and end the ones that are hurting so many Washington state families."
Calderon will visit Washington in a few days.
He’s scheduled to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress May 19 and have dinner with President Barack Obama that same evening.
If you listen to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., it would seem the two countries are on the same page about a lot of things and should be able to solve the cross-border issue quickly.
“Congress will warmly welcome President Calderón to the Capitol when he visits the United States next month as part of his state visit,” Pelosi said in making the announcement of his appearance. “As president of Mexico, our neighbor and friend, we look forward to hearing Calderón’s message to the American people, and his views on ways to strengthen our border communities, fight organized crime, and reinforce the essential partnership between our two nations.
“Our countries may be separated by a border, but we share much in common — our values of faith, family, and love of our respective countries. Relations with Mexico are of utmost importance to the United States. President Calderón’s address to Congress will provide us with a renewed opportunity to strengthen our bonds of friendship, discuss our shared challenges, and embrace common opportunities.”
And maybe an opportunity to see if an end to controversy is indeed “very near.”
We hope so.
* * *
We see where driverside.com has put together a list of the Top 10 places for speeding tickets and Massachusetts tops the list.
The list includes several states where truckers typically drive in droves.
The list is based on the number of speeding tickets issues, which can be skewed by the population and number of officers on the road.
But regardless, be careful out there.
Here are the Top 10 places:
3. South Carolina
4. New Mexico
7. North Dakota
10. Washington, D.C.
Lyndon Finney of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.