New Year Brings Continued Negotiations with Mexico Over Biotech Corn Imports
Brooke S. Appleton
As we enter 2023, we are reminded that we are now one-year out from the effective date of the decree banning most corn imports from the U.S. into Mexico.
The National Corn Growers Association, along with state corn partners, ended 2022 sounding the alarm about this issue and we’re seeing results, though there is still work to do.
The current predicament emerged last year when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to enact a decree that would ban all imports of biotech corn into Mexico, effective January 31, 2024.
Since 90 percent of U.S. corn is biotech corn and because Mexico is one of our top trading partners, the president’s promise threatened to upend a major economic partnership for our nation’s farmers. A study by World Perspectives showed that it also would adversely affect the Mexican economy and lead to issues of food insecurity.
NCGA and state corn partners began an aggressive campaign to bring attention to the issue. We continue to call for the U.S. Trade Representative to file a complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
We are pressing the case through the media and through our champions on Capitol Hill. Several letters were recently fired off from a bipartisan cadre of powerful House and Senate members calling for USTR to act.
State corn associations are working with their respective media outlets, pitching briefings to editorial boards at their state newspapers and working with their state’s legislative leadership to effect change.
As a result, what started as a hard promise by President López Obrador to essentially end U.S. corn imports has begun to soften.
This is due in large part to the involvement of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack listened to the messages from our campaign, and he acted. He told the Mexican president firsthand that the U.S. would act if a reasonable agreement wasn’t reached.
President López Obrador has indicated that he would be open to allowing imports of yellow corn, used for animal feed, into the country but white corn, used for human consumption, might still face hurdles. He is also said to be considering a delay of the original implementation date.
As Secretary Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai met with President López Obrador in late December, we made it clear that we would not accept a compromise that included banning corn, white, yellow or otherwise, and that we needed the impasse resolved quickly.
The negotiations are continuing but we are pleased to see that the conversation is headed in the right direction, and we applaud Secretary Vilsack for his willingness to push for a dispute settlement under USMCA if an agreement is not reached.
The work on this effort is a great example of the type of advocacy that state corn associations and NCGA are performing daily. Successes would not be possible if not for the reliable relationships that we’ve cultivated over the years with policymakers on both sides of the aisle.
We will continue pressing forward on this issue, and we won’t stop until a fair deal is reached on behalf of America’s corn growers.
Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.