During a congressional briefing today, corn growers told members of Congress and their staff that U.S. officials should continue to hold the line with Mexico over a proposed ban that would block most U.S. corn imports into that country. During the discussion, growers emphasized that the ban would land a significant blow to the American economy.
The statements included praise from corn growers for the Biden administration’s most recent action, which took a tough position with Mexico over the proposed ban.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in late 2020 that he would implement a decree banning biotech corn into the country beginning in early 2024. The vast majority of U.S. corn is biotech. The briefing, hosted by the National Corn Growers Association, was held on the one-year mark from the decree’s effective date.
“This decree would cut most American corn growers off from what has historically been our largest export market,” NCGA President Tom Haag noted after the briefing. “That’s why it is extremely important that U.S. officials continue to ensure that Mexico lives up to its commitments under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”
Haag was joined on the panel by Andy Jobman, a farmer and chairman of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association; Representative Adrian Smith (R-Neb.); and Jason Hafemeister, acting deputy for trade at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The panelists talked about the important role biotech corn plays in crop production and the harm that would come if farmers were to move away from biotech corn.
“It would undermine the technology and the advancements that we’ve seen in our crop protection,” noted Jobman. “When it comes to improving soil health, using less energy, being more environmentally friendly and raising a much higher quality product, we can’t do that without biotechnology. It would be like getting rid of electricity and going back to candles.”
Others echoed Jobman’ s comments.
“Imagine if we didn’t have [biotechnology],” Smith noted. “We would have to rely more on chemicals, so [biotechnology] is good for the environment.”
According to forecasts, the ban on biotech corn would cause the U.S. economy to lose $73.8 billion over ten years in economic output along with 32,217 jobs annually with labor income falling $18 billion.
The Biden administration began talks with Mexican officials late last year and Mexico offered a revised decree. Last week, President Biden dispatched senior aides from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the office of the U. S. Trade Representative to Mexico City to meet with officials in the López Obrador administration.
In a statement following the meeting, USTR and USDA officials said the revised decree offered by Mexico to date was not sufficient. The officials said they made it clear to their Mexican counterparts that they are considering all options, including taking formal steps to enforce the issue under the USMCA.
Hafemeister said the administration is paying attention to the overarching decree, the fact that Mexico’s approval process for new varieties has been stopped and any related trade regulations that might place restrictions or channel those using biotechnology.
“We have been clear with the Mexicans that this really needs to be solved,” Hafemeister noted. “It’s not the kind of thing that is easily compromised because it is about science, it’s about the law, it’s about economics. So, we are asking them to look at those instruments and reform them.”
NCGA applauded the Biden administration for rejecting the most recent proposal, which would have undermined science-based regulatory principles, violated USMCA and set a negative global precedent. Panelists during today’s briefing echoed that sentiment.