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Standing Up for U.S. Farmers in Mexico Corn Dispute

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: Arkansas Farm Bureau, used with permission.

My father taught me to be a man of my word. Whether spoken or written, your word is your bond. It’s important that we hold up our end of an agreement, and that we expect our partners to do the same. That's why Farm Bureau stands by the administration’s actions to keep Mexico true to our trade deal.

This July marks three years since the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The agreement was a milestone in protecting our vital partnership with our two largest trading partners and setting the stage for modernized trade agreements. USMCA has brought notable growth in agricultural trade, but it’s not perfect and not without challenges.

A challenge at the forefront right now is the ongoing dispute with Mexico over genetically modified corn. Mexico is our largest market for corn. Just last year, we sold 13.8 million tons of yellow corn and 1.6 million tons of white corn. But at the end of 2020, Mexico said it would ban GMO corn. They didn’t stop there either. On Feb. 13 of this year, they issued a more specific decree, which banned white corn produced with biotechnology, but made an exception for yellow corn produced with biotechnology, until alternatives are found. Talk about a blatant example of a non-scientific trade barrier to U.S. farmers. Mexico’s inconsistent standard also completely ignores the proven benefits and safety of biotechnology.

As farmers and ranchers, our mission is to provide a safe and sustainable source of food, fiber, and renewable fuel for families both at home and across the globe. One way we achieve this is through tools like biotechnology, which allow us to grow more nutritious and more sustainable crops. In fact, around 90% of the corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the U.S. have been improved through biotechnology. These crops require less water and fewer pesticide applications compared to other crops, making them more resilient in the face of threats like drought, weeds and insects. Thanks to biotechnology and other sustainable farming practices, we are producing more with fewer resources. Thirty years ago, it would have taken 100 million more acres in the U.S. to produce what farmers are growing today.

As farmers and ranchers, our mission is to provide a safe and sustainable source of food, fiber, and renewable fuel for families both at home and across the globe.

Mexico’s biotechnology ban is not only a clear violation of the USMCA, but also it ignores science, stands in the way of our farmers’ sustainability, and denies families in Mexico safe and affordable food. That’s why Farm Bureau is grateful for support from both USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as Secretary Vilsack and Ambassador Tai stand by U.S. farmers and hold Mexico to our agreement.

Where do things stand today? Following the initial ban, officials from our two countries met several times but did not reach an agreement. Then on June 2, USTR announced dispute settlement consultations with Mexico citing the Restricting Exports and Violation of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measure chapter of USMCA.

The next step is for the two countries to come to the table and address the issue in formal dispute settlement discussions. If no resolution is reached within 75 days, the U.S. has the option to call for a third-party dispute panel. Ambassador Tai has made it clear that the goal is to avoid reaching that point, and she believes an agreement can be reached during this next round of meetings.

Embracing biotechnology has been a game changer for agriculture. It helps us to produce more efficiently while staying committed to our stewardship of the land. Just as my father stood by his word in running the farm, we, as a country, must stand firm and honor our agreements while holding our partners accountable. That’s how we fulfill our promise to both farmers and the families who rely on the food we produce.