MEXICO CITY — Seventeen agriculture groups have urged leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada gathering this week in Mexico City to take advantage of an “extraordinary opportunity” to strengthen North American trade in agricultural products. The groups also pushed for “expeditious resolution” of potential blockades to trade, such as Mexico’s proposed ban on some uses of biotech corn.  

The request comes amid the North American Leaders Summit held this week in Mexico City in which US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with other leaders from the three countries, met to discuss issues of migration and trade.

The coalition of 17 agriculture groups provided a reminder of the historical importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in initiating complementary trade and integrated markets in agricultural products. As a result of the pact, the group said, food security was enhanced, as were agriculture sustainability and prosperity throughout the continent. NAFTA and its successor, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) took intra-continental trade from $7.7 billion dollars in 1994 to $67.1 billion dollars in 2021, a 770% increase, and created “the largest trilateral agricultural trade relationship in the world, positioning North America as a critical region for sustaining global food security,” the letter said.

The benefits of North America’s robust agricultural trade framework have been highlighted by food issues in recent years, some of which were precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the coalition wrote. Food security issues and global supply chain disruptions were less apparent in North American due to “extensively integrated markets that have ensured our regional food security and maintained robust trade and investment relationships between our industries and consumers, despite significant uncertainty in global markets,” the coalition said.

The group urged the United States, Mexico and Canada to “adapt to the challenges experienced over the past several years in international trade, an extraordinary opportunity exists to continue to strengthen North American trade in agricultural products for the benefit of consumers, the environment, and the prosperity of our rural communities.”

Such opportunities abound within the framework of the USMCA, known in Canada as CUSMA and in Mexico as T-MEC, the group said.

“Through science- and risk-based policies that are efficient, predictable, and compliant with international obligations, North American markets can embrace technology that advances food security, agricultural sustainability and rural prosperity and foster a variety of cost-effective food choices for our consumers,” the coalition said. “Adoption of innovative agricultural technologies is critical to sustainably increase productivity, while reducing the environmental footprint of agricultural production. These breakthroughs can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the agricultural supply chain while bolstering food security throughout North America.”

Finally, the coalition encouraged the committees under the auspices of the USMC to share and align on best practices, ensure differences are addressed in a timely manner and quickly resolve “agriculture-related trade disputes and irritants, particularly including Mexico’s proposed ban on some uses of biotech corn and other agricultural technologies.”

On the final point, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the Biden administration is unwilling to compromise on Mexico’s proposed ban on corn grown using biotechnology and certain herbicides. Mexico has pushed the proposed ban from 2024 to 2025, but some US lawmakers are encouraging US officials to nip it in the bud.

“There’s no reason to compromise,” Secretary Vilsack told reporters Jan. 9 at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

US white corn exports to Mexico’s food processors and tortilla makers comprise a smaller volume than feed corn. Mexican President Obrador has said he would await the results on new safety studies on feed corn but was not flexible on banning biotech white corn for processing.

The following 17 groups formed the coalition: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Seed Trade Association, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Corn Refiners Association, CropLife America, Mexico’s National Agriculture Council, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Corn Growers Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Export Grain Association, North American Meat Institute, North American Millers’ Association and the US Dairy Export Council.