Mexican soft drinks are somewhat legendary for being made with real cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup—but that could all change next year, thanks to a 2006 addendum to NAFTA’s sugar policy. Under that agreement, Mexico was supposed to partially open its markets to U.S. HFCS exporters this year, with full-on free trade coming in January 2008. Since many south-of-the-border beverage makers would likely switch to the cheap, eerily tongue-coating syrup, it would seem that the clock is ticking on corn-free cola.

But on Monday, House ag committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) released a draft proposal that would extend the current restrictions until 2012, as reports. (Yeah, I’m on the listserv—what about it?!) And judging from recent industry testimony before Peterson’s committee, U.S. corn pushers would be none too happy if his proposal passed. Check out some of these funny turns of phrase:

We will no longer be able to limit imports of sugar from Mexico effective January 1, 2008. If imports of Mexican sugar are restricted in any way, exports of corn sweeteners will be held hostage.

the top export market for HFCS has been Mexico, our North American Free Trade Agreement partner. Regrettably, our industry has been embroiled in a ten year HFCS dispute with Mexico, in large part because the United States limited Mexico’s sugar access during this period. In short, corn sweeteners became the victim in a tit-for-tat trade dispute.

End this senseless persecution of corn sweeteners! Free the fructose! Never thought I’d hear those arguments.

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