Congressional Hearing Highlights Economic Danger From Mexico’s Exclusion of US Corn

By Autumn Spredemann
Autumn Spredemann
Autumn Spredemann
Autumn is a South America-based reporter covering primarily Latin American issues for The Epoch Times.
February 1, 2023Updated: February 5, 2023

During a U.S. congressional hearing that took place on Feb. 1 to address the new 2023 Farm Bill, four legislators identified Mexico’s proposed ban on GMO crops as a direct threat to U.S. corn exports.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) collectively voiced concerns over the significant economic impact of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s decree to abolish GMO corn imports by 2024.

Ernst noted that the restriction could cost the U.S. economy more than $74 billion in economic output over a 10-year period, noting that Obrador’s biotech decree would “ban much of Iowa’s corn.”

Marshall pointed out that under Biden, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) activated dispute resolution systems six times over Mexican labor conditions. However, the administration hadn’t once called upon the measure over Mexico’s plan to exclude U.S. corn exports.

Epoch Times Photo
Farmer Dave Burrier walks back to his tractor as he plants corn in the Marvin Chapel field in Mount Airy, Md., on May 19, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

During the hearing, Marshall told Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Alexis Taylor, “Our farmers feel like this administration is putting Mexican assembly workers ahead of [U.S.] farmers.”

Ninety percent of all U.S. corn is produced using genetically engineered seeds, according to the USDA. Mexico is the second largest buyer of U.S. corn after China.

Amid existing inflation and supply chain concerns, the U.S. corn industry is already treading water. Total commitments for U.S. corn exports for 2022–23 dropped by 50 percent on the year and are 42 percent below the five-year average.

One 2022 study estimated that net economic losses in the first year of Mexico’s pending ban would amount to $3.6 billion. In the second year, lost revenue would climb by an additional $5.5 billion.

After a meeting in November 2022 between Obrador and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Mexican Economic Minister Raquel Buenrostro clarified the ban would apply primarily to GMO corn used for human consumption.

Farmer Jason Podany uses combine to harvest corn near Farmingdale, Ill., on Aug. 30, 2011. The sugar and corn industries ended their billion-dollar bitter battle over sweeteners Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in a secret out-of-court settlement. Both sides announced the deal that puts an end to a trial that began nearly three weeks ago in Los Angeles federal court pitting sugar against high fructose corn syrup. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Combine harvesting corn on Aug. 30, 2011. (Seth Perlman/AP Photo)

“If the entire world is making an energy transition to renewable energy, why not make a food transition to healthier foods?” Buenrostro said in a statement.

After the meeting with Vilsack, Obrador proposed a one-year delay of the GMO corn ban to make the transition easier for both countries. If approved, U.S. corn exports wouldn’t be affected until 2025.

“We made it abundantly clear that Mexico’s import ban would cause both massive economic losses for Mexico’s agricultural industries and citizens, as well as place an unjustified burden on U.S. farmers,” Vilsack said in a statement.

In the congressional session, Thune said Mexico’s looming restriction could “threaten food security” and stifle agricultural “biotech innovations” that would benefit both nations. He urged Taylor and the USDA to hold Mexico accountable for its trade obligations as outlined by the USMCA.

When pressed by Marshall whether she felt Obrador’s ban lived up to the standards outlined in the USMCA, Taylor replied, “We do not.”

Grassley added his voice, saying he was concerned the decree isn’t being met with urgency by the current administration.

“Why hasn’t the Biden administration established a dispute settlement process under the USMCA panel with Mexico?” he asked.

Taylor responded to the intense line of questioning by highlighting the need to expand international export diversity.

“We appreciate the potential impact it can have on corn growers in the United States,” she said.

The office for the USMCA was unable to respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment by press time.