Vilsack issues statement after Mexico trip to meet with López Obrador
|Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Mexico on Monday to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador to discuss genetically modified corn, a sign of how alarming the Biden administration considers Lopez Obrador’s plans to ban biotech corn and other biotechnology products by January 2024.|
“We appreciate the president welcoming us to Mexico and engaging in a productive dialogue,” Vilsack said in a USDA news release.
“The meetings provided a venue to raise the United States government’s and our producers’ deep concerns around President López Obrador’s 2020 decree to phase out the use and importation of biotech corn and other biotechnology products by January 2024. The president’s phase-out decree has the potential to substantially disrupt trade, harm farmers on both sides of the border and significantly increase costs for Mexican consumers.
“We must find a way forward soon and I emphasized in no uncertain terms that — absent acceptable resolution of the issue — the U.S. government would be forced to consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our legal rights under the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement). Vilsack had not announced the trip, but López Obrador announced at his regular news conference on Monday that he would meet with Vilsack, Reuters said. Reuters said a ban would cause Mexico to halve its U.S. imports of yellow corn.
Vilsack added, “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.”
“This is a critically important issue for U.S. farmers, who are rightfully and deeply concerned about the decree. The decree would also have significant impact on the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship, which hit a record value of more than $63 billion in two-way trade in 2021 and is expected to be even higher in 2022. The phase-out of biotechnology products, as outlined in the decree, could also stifle the important innovations we need to help our farmers adapt to a changing climate.
“The United States Department of Agriculture and the wider U.S. government have consistently and proactively pursued cooperation and consultation with Mexico to resolve this issue and time is now running short. Some progress was made today.
“For example, President López Obrador reaffirmed the importance of yellow corn imports for Mexico’s food security. He also discussed a potential process in which we can exchange information and engage in dialogue assuring the safety of biotechnology products.
“We expect to have a proposal from the president’s team soon and we will evaluate closely. While we do not have a solution in hand, we will continue to engage with Mexico on this important issue,” Vilsack said.The National Corn Growers Association said the trip “showed how strongly Secretary Vilsack feels about this issue.”
“We are very appreciative of Secretary Vilsack for taking the lead on this issue that is so important to American corn growers,” said NCGA CEO Jon Doggett.
“Today’s meeting shows that the Biden administration is listening to NCGA and American corn grower leaders and that Secretary Vilsack is willing to go to the mat for America’s farmers. This is an extremely important development.”