WASHINGTON, DC, US — US corn growers continued their push against Mexico’s proposed ban on biotech corn imports during a briefing with the US Congress on Jan. 31, just one year before the presidential decree is set to take effect.

Tom Haag, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA); US Representative Adrian Smith of Nebraska; and Jason Hafemeister, acting deputy director of trade at the US Department of Agriculture, were part of a panel that discussed the issue with members of Congress and their staffs.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in late 2020 that he would implement a decree banning biotech corn imports into the country beginning in early 2024. The vast majority of US 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.

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. 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.

“This decree would cut most American corn growers off from what has historically been our largest export market,” Haag said after the briefing. “That’s why it is extremely important that US officials continue to ensure that Mexico lives up to its commitments under the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”

Mexico imports about 17 million tonnes of genetically modified corn per year, and the United States is the top supplier.

If Mexico follows through with the import ban, the economic consequences would be devastating for US farmers and Mexican consumers, according to a recently released study by World Perspectives, Inc. 

The study found that the US corn industry would lose $3.56 billion in the first year following a full ban, proceeded by a $5.56 billion loss in the second year, according to the report’s estimates. Over the 10-year forecast period, the corn industry would experience a $13.61 billion economic loss.

The study also looked at the larger impact on the US economy, projecting a loss of $73.89 billion in economic output and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracting by $30.55 billion. It also forecast a loss of more than 30,000 jobs annually with labor income falling by more than $18 billion.

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Mexico City in late November to meet with President López Obrador about the issue, a development that was widely praised by corn growers. Vilsack emphasized during that meeting that minus a reasonable agreement, the United States would take action, including filing a complaint under USMCA.

The presidents of 23 state corn grower groups, joined by the president of the NCGA, sent a letter to President Biden on Dec. 14 calling for him to take additional steps to address the pending decree by Mexico.

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 Mexicansthat 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.”