Corn growers call for dispute settlement under USMCA and sound science in any rulings

Corn growers across the nation are calling on the administration to initiate a dispute settlement under the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement after Mexico’s latest decree to ban some U.S. imports of biotech corn.

Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association Executive Director Tadd Nicholson says the U.S. has a case in the dispute settlement despite there not being specific language addressing the biotech issue in the trade agreement.  

“It says we’re going to use science to determine some of the rulings like approvals of new GMO traits, those types of things that they’d be willing to import,” he says. “All of that has been stopped and it’s all non-scientific reasons. It’s political reasons. That’s why the U.S. has a good case to bring before the USMCA dispute settlement.”

Anthony Bush is a grain farmer near Mt. Gilead, Ohio. He says the latest decree fuels uncertainty for corn growers.  

“It impacts the bags of seed that are sitting in people’s warehouses right now. If Mexico thinks it can source 670 million bushels of non-GMO corn anywhere in the world, they just can’t. There’s not anywhere near that amount available and there’s no way to make that kind of change that fast and even if we could, they wouldn’t like the price of it,” he says. “If we can’t use these biotech traits that are there for us to use right now, we’re talking about setting farming back 40-50 years as well as productivity and the world just can’t handle that.”

Bush serves on the board of the Ohio Corn Checkoff and board of directors of MAIZALL, the international alliance of maize growers and exporters from Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S.  

Nicholson says resolution is a must as Mexico is the number one importer of U.S. corn.

“The number Anthony mentioned— the 670 million bushels— that’s more corn than the state of Ohio produces in a given year. We’re talking a very large amount of our U.S. corn supply going to our biggest customer, so the severity of this cannot be overstated,” he says. “That’s why corn growers like Anthony and Ohio Corn and Wheat are asking for resolution immediately. It must get done.”

Bush says he believes the administration will find a resolution.

“This decree is all about political science. It’s not about sound, respected, actual science. That’s what the American farmer needs to understand and why this is so important. This is our absolute top priority right now.”

Nicholson says maintaining trade relationships is critical for the corn industry.

“Ninety-five percent of the population lives outside of the country, so we know where future corn demand is going to come from and that’s outside of the United States,” he says. “Trade agreements and things like the USMCA are really important to us. We’re all about fair trade but there are rules written for a reason and they need to be enforced and that’s been our request. We don’t want anything special for U.S. corn farmers, we just want the rules as written and agreed to, to be followed.”

Mexico officials issued the decree last week calling for a ban on imports of some biotech corn. The government said it would continue to allow imports of biotech corn used as animal feed. This follows an initial decree initiated by President López Obrador in late 2020 that would ban imports of biotech corn effective January 31, 2024.

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Audio: Tadd Nicholson and Anthony Bush

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