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Relief may be on the way for U.S. produce companies hit hard by steep Mexican tariffs as the U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan. 6 released a "concept document," a first step in resolving the cross border trucking dispute.

Mexico placed $2 billion in tariffs on a range of U.S. products after Congress shut down the funding for a pilot program that allowed a small number of Mexican trucks to enter the United States. Congress since removed the funding ban but the tariffs continued as the Obama administration had yet to finalize a plan for a new pilot program.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the new document is a starting point in resolving the dispute and addressing safety concerns, and that a formal document would be announced in the coming months.

“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 Western Growers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Nassif, who said that Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack telephoned him Jan. 6 with the news. “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,” he said.