"I am pleased to formalize the relationship between USDA and Mexico's Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources by signing this Memorandum of Understanding," says Veneman. "The MOU solidifies our commitment to work together in specific areas that both Mexico and the U.S. share as environmental priorities."

Currently, USDA shares approximately 30 collaborative research projects with Mexico in areas such as biotechnology and biosafety, fire management and forest fire protection, and greenhouse gas reduction through soil carbon enhancement. The MOU provides a mechanism to expand research projects.

"At the Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology last month, delegates from around the world recognized that water quality and availability are problems that deserve special attention," says Veneman. "By forging a closer working relationship with Mexico's principal environmental agency, we can work collaboratively on better watershed management and irrigation techniques and research to help develop drought-resistant crops."

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994, two-way agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico increased more than 100%, reaching $12.8 billion in 2002. This increased agricultural trade has also expanded technical and scientific exchanges between the two countries, along with creating a network of contacts between U.S. and Mexican research institutions. This MOU is one way to help formalize these relationships.

For more information on this U.S.-Mexico MOU or other USDA efforts in government-to-government technical cooperation and exchanges, contact the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service's International Cooperation and Development office at (202) 690-0776 or on the Web at http://www.fas.usda.gov/icd/exchange.html.