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Letter: The White House must act now to stop another train wreck:  Mexico’s proposed ban on U.S. corn

Former Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson writes about the potential fallout for farmers and the U.S. economy.

Collin Peterson
Collin Peterson
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In recent months, all eyes have been on efforts to stave off the real potential for an economically devastating rail strike.  So much so that few have paid much attention to yet another imminent event with serious adverse implications for the entire U.S. economy.  

By January 2024, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he will block over 90% of U.S. corn imports.  Mexico is U.S. corn’s largest customer worldwide.  

Obrador threatens this action even though it would violate the terms Mexico agreed to under both the World Trade Organization and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement.  

By flaunting the terms of both the WTO and USMCA, Obrador’s actions seriously threaten to undermine both agreements.  After all, if laws and standards that are used by governments to protect humans, animals and plants from diseases and contaminants can be invoked without any scientific evidence, of what value are they?   

Ironically, beyond the harm to these agreements governing world trade is the harm that would come to Obrador’s own country, primarily working people.  

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Not surprisingly, according to one study, such a ban would result in significant spikes in the cost of food for the Mexican people and depress Mexico’s gross domestic product to the tune of $19 billion.  

At a time when the world is deeply concerned about food insecurity, Obrador’s action would pour fuel on the fire.  

The U.S. economy and America’s farm families would also be seriously harmed.  

One study suggests that the proposed ban would cost the U.S. nearly $74 billion in economic output and cause our nation’s gross domestic product to contract by more than $30 billion.  

Hit directly would be not just U.S. corn farmers — who alone would suffer billions of dollars in losses — but all American farmers because the price of corn impacts the price of other commodities.  

Recently, the president of the National Corn Growers Association, Tom Haag, and Iowa’s two senators called upon U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai to intervene quickly by formally requesting dispute settlement consultations under the USMCA before this situation truly gets out of hand. Ambassador Tai and Secretary Vilsack have both tried to talk some sense into the Mexican government but to no avail.  

Haag rightly notes that the corn he produced this year will find its way into grain channels not only next year but in 2024 when the ban is expected to be put in place.  In other words, the White House doesn’t have a year to sort this out before damage is done.  

Every member of Congress who is concerned about world food insecurity, the U.S. economy, and the health of the American farm economy should also weigh in with Tai and the White House to head this problem off before serious damage is done.  

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Over the course of my 30 years in Congress, including twice as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, I have seen foreign countries illegally using subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers at the expense of U.S. farm families — but none so flagrant as the one being threatened today by Mexico.  It cannot stand.  

Peterson served as the congressman from the 7th District of Minnesota from 1991-2021, including as the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee from 2007-2011 and 2019-2021.  He is president and founder of The Peterson Group. 

This letter originally appeared in The Forum and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Agweek nor Forum ownership.

Related Topics: FARMINGCORN
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