Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, has thrown his support behind a plan to create a pilot cross-border training program for U.S. and Mexican truckers. Northey says the program would move the U.S. toward complying with the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement.

Northey says this has been a contentious issue since NAFTA was passed and he says since a program hasn’t been started — Mexico has instituted duties on U.S. exports. He says that impacts Iowa with duties on pork. Northey says the tariffs would be dropped if the program gets going.

Northey says it makes sense to get a program going and this pilot program looks like it would guarantee safe trucks are coming into the United States, and meet the requirements of NAFTA. U.S. truckers have said they are worried that Mexican truckers could cross the border with trucks and training that didn’t meet the same standards they’re required to meet. Northey says transportation officials have worked to remedy those concerns.

Northey says he understands the federal D.O.T. program would inspect trucks and make sure the drivers are safe and are monitored to prevent problems. While he says the safety concerns were well founded, he believes the program would answer those concerns. Northey says pork producers in Iowa have felt the impact of the tariffs.

He says there’s a five-percent duty on bone-in hams going to Mexico, and that has cost the U.S. about eight million dollars over four weeks. Northey says the U.S. ships around one billion dollars in pork to Mexico annually, and the continued duty could cost “significant dollar loses” in pork exports. Northey says his letter of support to the U.S. Transportation Department.