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In Southeastern U.S., Poultry and Migration Booms Change the Face of Rural America

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Twenty years after its implementation, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) defines the economies of Mexico, the United States and Canada, and has a too-often unrecognized effect on society as well. Most evident is the impact NAFTA has on migration.

As supply chains are integrated, families are fractured. Governments herald the economic integration while dismissing as irrelevant the human impact. One industry - poultry production - demonstrates the social costs of "free trade," where labor and merchandise flows unleashed by NAFTA collide to destroy lives on both sides of the border.

North Carolina's Poultry and Migrant Booms

Following NAFTA, and in direct contradiction to its promises, migration from Mexico to the United States increased. Soon it reached upward of half a million people.

This influx of cheap Mexican labor provided the U.S. poultry industry with a competitive edge and has transformed the demographic make-up of poultry-producing counties located within states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia that compose what is informally known as the "southeast poultry corridor".   

What has happened in North Carolina, the second largest poultry producing state in the U.S., demonstrates the contradictions of NAFTA. On one side of the border, millions of Mexican workers were displaced, and on the other side, industries competing globally needed to keep up with rising costs, speed and demand for production opened up jobs that remained unfilled due to decreased wages.  
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