Following up on a meeting between Mexican Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Victor Villalobos and United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack the week prior, agricultural leaders from North America convened Oct. 25-27 at the Tri-National Agricultural Accord to continue to discuss shared priorities among the three countries.
State delegates from the U.S. and Mexico discussed concerns regarding recent decisions by Mexico’s federal government to impose arbitrary prohibitions on agricultural biotechnology and certain pesticides. Delegates reaffirmed their commitment that the regulation, import and use of these critical tools be based on science and established a work group to promote this goal.
“When we base our assessment of agricultural tools and technology on the highest quality science, we can ensure the viability of farms and ensure farmers and workers’ safety remains uncompromised,” says National Association of State Departments of Agriculture President, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard A. Ball. “The U.S. and Mexican food supply chain is intricately connected as we are each other’s largest trading partners. We must work hand-in-hand to encourage the free flow of food across our borders and the continued development of technology that supports global climate resiliency.”
Ralph Eichler, minister of agriculture and resource development in Manitoba, adds, “Innovation and technology advancements continue to play an important part” in the collaboration of the North American trading partners, and it is essential to continue supporting science and risk-based decision making to reach shared goals.
When asked specifically about Mexico’s biotech approvals and actions to ban the use of glyphosate, Echler notes sciences allows innovations to build on strengths and draw down weaknesses. At the end of 2020, the Mexican government decreed a ban of glyphosate beginning in January 2024.
In discussions between Vilsack and Villalobos, Vilsack explains his Mexican counterpart says the decree doesn’t prohibit or prevent genetically engineered corn from the United States coming into Mexico for the feed that they need. This is important considering over $2 billion in corn exports, or one-fourth of the U.S. corn crop, was exported to Mexico.
Carlos Muñiz Rodrigues, Hidalgo state secretary of rural development, Mexican Association of Secretaries of Rural Development president and Mexican Delegation lead, says there has been some research done regarding the use or non-use of glyphosate by states in Mexico, and they’re waiting for results from the federal level to dictate future actions. “As we’ve mentioned in the Tri-National Meeting, we encourage solutions tied to science,” he says.
Vilsack says he was encouraged by Villalobos’ promise that GMO corn from the U.S. would not be impacted. “I intend to make sure the promise he made is carried through on the ground,” says Vilsack. “It’s reassuring to me that the secretary understands the necessity of keeping that trade route open to corn.”
Ball shared the 30th annual Tri-National Accord allowed for the ability to build on previous relationships and build new ones critical to collaborating and creating a problem-solving environment for challenges facing the countries and to “focus on opportunities going forward to create and expand our global competitiveness.”
“By working together as a North American trade alliance, we have and will continue to expand the opportunities of current and future generations of agricultural producers. And there’s no doubt state and provincial governments play an essential role in this success,” Ball adds.
In addition to joint statements on the bilateral meetings with Canada and Mexico, the three countries held productive sessions on combatting the threat of African swine fever, improving global climate resiliency through agricultural trade and the importance of cybersecurity within the food supply chain.
Echler adds the meeting allows for opportunities for regional collaboration on regional issues, such as African swine fever as it continues to be front of mind. It also allows for the sharing of best practices in how to prepare and respond to threats of plant diseases and pests that impact certain issues, as well as address emerging issues such as sustainable food system, climate resilience, cybersecurity and working together to address global challenges that are important as the countries seek to support the integrated supply chain.
In a joint statement from Villalobos and Vilsack, they note they share a similar commitment on many of the same issues addressed at the Tri-National Accord to keeping their markets open and transparent so that trade can continue to grow.
“The integrated nature of our two agricultural sectors serves as a driving force for this enduring trading partnership, linking farmers, ranchers and consumers on both sides of the border. Our discussions in Iowa highlighted the importance of continuing to work together to advance rural prosperity and to fulfill our shared responsibility to protect our agricultural systems and producers. This includes collaborative efforts to prevent the spread of African swine fever and other animal and plant diseases and pests,” the ag secretaries’ statement notes.
“From excessive drought to more extreme fires, our farmers, ranchers and producers are on the front lines dealing with the increasingly urgent challenges of climate change,” Villalobos and Vilsack add. “Agriculture faces the daunting task of producing more food to meet the nutritional needs of a growing world population while at the same time coping with climate change and ever-tightening natural resource constraints. We are confident that our agricultural sectors will be a key part of the solution, with a focus on a more inclusive rural development and continuing to provide good incomes to rural workers and plentiful supplies of high-quality agricultural products to consumers worldwide.”