Weekly Column

Oct 31 2022

International Trade

Nebraska is one of the nation’s top agricultural states. Our farmers and ranchers have products that reach every corner of the country, as well as foreign markets around the world. In 2020, Nebraska exported $2.33 billion worth of soybeans/soybean products and $1.2 billion worth of corn. In 2021, Nebraska exported $1.81 billion worth of beef and $325.8 million worth of pork.

Nebraska’s ability to produce and export agricultural goods means international trade is vital to the economic livelihood of our state and its people. Our agricultural exports are also important to foreign nations, who rely on access to affordable, well-sourced products to help feed their country.

It’s troubling then that Mexico, a long-time trading partner of the United States, seems intent on enforcing a misguided ban on genetically modified corn.

This issue goes back to 2020, when Mexican President Lopez Obrador suddenly issued a presidential decree that Mexico would phase out the use of genetically modified corn by 2024.  Since then, there has been significant concern over whether the ban will actually be implemented, as well as what exactly it would cover. For example, the Mexican government has in the past indicated the ban would only apply to corn destined for human consumption, but there has been little action to clarify this.

Making matters worse, between August of 2021 and March of 2022, Mexican regulators have begun rejecting corn, soybean, canola, and cotton biotech products. These actions, as well as comments from Mexican officials, suggest the country intends to move forward with the ban.

It’s important to note that this kind of ban is not based on science. Genetically modified crops are not only safe, but also vital to modern agriculture. These scientific advancements have helped farmers to reduce water/land usage, lower input costs, and boost yield. Such a ban would also be contradictory to the clear free trade commitments Mexico made under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The impact of Mexico’s 2024 ban would be severe. Nebraska is the top state in the union for white corn, which is used in many food products. Nebraska exported over $348 million of corn to Mexico in 2020, making it our state’s largest export market for the product. Any restriction would devastate family farmers across our state.

But the impacts of this misguided policy go far beyond Nebraska. Over 90 percent of all corn acreage in the United States is planted with genetically engineered seeds. A ban would also hurt the people of Mexico and their economy by dramatically raising food prices.

Just the mere possibility of a ban is already impacting farmers. Without certainty about 2024, it’s hard for producers to know how to best plan out seed purchases and planting schedules.

Mexico’s ban against GMO corn would be a lose-lose for both countries’ economies, farmers, and science. I’ve been tracking this issue closely, and have been working with stakeholders over the last year to emphasize the gravity of the situation. It’s important that we all do everything we can to push back on this ridiculous policy and ensure it does not go into effect. I encourage the Biden Administration to fully enforce USMCA, including initiating an enforcement case if necessary, so we can reach a reasonable resolution with Mexico.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

 

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