The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on July 18 with Diane Kurrle, vice president of public affairs with the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va. Read entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.

10:03 a.m. Tom Karst: What issues are you working on right now?

Q&A | Diane Kurrle, U.S. Apple Association10:03 a.m. Diane Kurrle: Labor, labor and labor.

10:04 a.m. Karst: And mandatory E-Verify legislation is the still the big issue right now?

10:05 a.m. Kurrle: Mandatory E-Verify is probably the biggest issue, but at the same time we also have the ongoing problems with the current H-2A program and our members are struggling to make that work for them. We have two tracks, trying to have some impact on E-Verify legislation. We and all the other agriculture groups have not come out in opposition to the bill because our strategy instead is that the bill needs to include a viable solution for agriculture and so that’s the way we have come at it.

And U.S. Apple and our members were in town back in March talking to their members of Congress about that and laid out the points that need to be part of the bill in order to make E-Verify workable: a workable guest worker program that is not bureaucratic, that is affordable and that is useable, essentially.

We need some way for the current workforce to continue to work in some capacity. That doesn’t necessary mean the AgJobs style as in the past. I think everybody recognizes that that sort of a program isn’t going to pass this Congress, but perhaps there is a way to allow for the current workforce to work in the guest worker program. But it needs to be one that is much more flexible than the H-2A program.

10:08 a.m. Karst: What is the latest on the Mexican trucking issue?

10:09 a.m. Kurrle: What has to happen next is that the (Department of Transportation) has a process to go through in terms of getting the first Mexican truck on the road, but there are things (Mexican companies) have to go through in terms of getting the company applying, the company’s getting the proper inspections. All of that is ongoing.

The concern is that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has indicated he will offer an amendment to defund the pilot to a couple of transportation bills. It may not pass, but there is always a strong concern that any kind of momentum for that sends the wrong message. You have companies (in) Mexico that will need to make significant investments in order to prepare to come on to our roads. You don’t want to do anything to slow that down, or destroy that. The good news is the first half of the tariff has come off. If Congress were do something (to defund the pilot) then Congress is then putting the tariff back on, and I think that adds political pressure. Our hope and belief is that the tariff will be down to zero by the harvest season.