Farmers' voices can uniquely describe the necessity of continually-improving crop breeding technologies, crop protection products and farming practices. Corn farmers in the United States, Argentina and Brazil have come together to tell this story through MAIZALL, the international maize alliance, which works with both individual countries and international regulatory bodies to advocate for science-based policies regulating the use of these technologies.
“Everywhere we go, we hear that our voice is needed,” said Chip Councell, a 10th generation farmer from Maryland who recently assumed the MAIZALL president role. “Our farmer perspectives illustrate the real-world impacts of the benefits of these technologies and the potential detrimental impact of policies limiting their use.”
Established in 2013, MAIZALL is a coalition of maize farmer associations from Argentina (MAIZAR), Brazil (Abramilho) and the United States (the National Corn Growers Association, NCGA, and the U.S. Grains Council) that are working together to share expertise and information and to address trade barriers to agricultural innovation. The three countries represent 70 percent of global corn exports, and the majority of their farmers have similar stances on issues like biotechnology, genome-editing or maximum residue levels (MRLs). Their joint efforts through MAIZALL help strengthen each country’s work to promote an understanding of the benefits of plant breeding technology and address global trade barriers and obstacles.
“Growers in Argentina, Brazil and the United States all face similar regulatory barriers in overseas markets,” said Allison Nepveux, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) manager of trade policy. “By working together, MAIZALL helps provide unified support for timely and science-based regulations, innovative agricultural technologies and barrier-free trade.”
To accomplish this goal, the farmer-leaders in MAIZALL work directly with government officials, private sector stakeholders, influencers in importing countries and international organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, MAIZALL directors focused on sharing their farmer perspectives though direct meetings with these audiences during international missions as well as speaking engagements at global conferences and workshops.
These farmer-leaders adapted their approach after travel was restricted to interacting virtually and developing even more written information, like letters and position papers, for government contacts. These efforts included exchanging issues and concerns with EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, recording a video message for FAO member states and participating in virtual FAO and WTO meetings. The group also modernized the MAIZALL website to further enhance outreach, while still planning for missions in 2021. MAIZALL is working to secure farmer representation for North and South America at the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit in New York.
“When we look around the world at places like sub-Saharan Africa, where there are drought and insect problems, they see what we are doing in the United States,” Councell said. “It comes back to food security, and as we all move forward, what do we need to do to address these issues? It’s a long process, but the potential end results are worth the time spent.”