Organic Consumers Association

US & Canadian Family Farmers Denounce NAFTA's Impact on Mexico

January 16, 2003, Issue #216
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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January 8, 2003
To: Vicente Fox Quezada
Constitutional President of the United Mexican States

Dear President Fox,

The National Family Farm Coalition, an organization from the
United States of America representing thousands of family farmers from
across the nation, wishes to express its total support for the campesino
organizations who make up the movement "El Campo No Aguanta Mýs."

We express our solidarity with the representatives of the
campesino organizations who are fasting at the "Angel de la Independencia"
in Mexico D.F. We fully support their actions of protest as well as their
participation in dialogue, in efforts to demand support or the rural
sectors and a moratorium on the agriculture chapter of NAFTA.

The NFFC recognizes the willingness of the Mexican Government to
enter into negotiations with the campesino organizations and hopes that by
the date established for an agreement, February 5, concrete mechanisms will
be established that offer relief to Mexican farmers. If these mechanisms
are not established, farmers in Mexico will suffer grave consequences with
the elimination of tariffs on almost all agriculture products.

As farmers and rural residents from the U.S., we too are
experiencing the negative impacts of trade liberalization and the
agriculture crisis that has intensified all over the world. Since NAFTA was
signed in 1993, thousands of family farmers in the U.S. have gone bankrupt,
unable to compete with large transnational agribusiness firms who are
taking over the world agriculture market. This is why we feel it necessary
to express to your government, as we have expressed to the U.S. government,
that national food security, the elimination of poverty and the ability of
farmers to receive fair prices for their products, must be first priority
in any trade agreement, above corporate profits and stockholder gains.

Since the U.S. is now entering into several other trade
negotiations with developing countries such as those of Central and South
America, it is even more urgent that Mexico take immediate steps to
establish policies that protect family farmers in all three trading
countries from corporate dominance. What the Mexican government chooses to
do in the next few months will set a precedent for countries all over the
world to put the well being of their own citizens, especially the most
vulnerable, above any pressure applied by the U.S. to do otherwise.

Sincerely Yours
Bill Christison
President, National Family Farm Coalition


Mexican farmers are threatening to shut down key U.S.-Mexico border
crossings in the first week of January if the government does not take some
immediate action to resolve the agricultural crisis. During the past two
weeks Mexican farm organizations have organized major demonstrations, closed
down main highways, and met with government officials. Farm organizations
have consolidated a united front called the "Countryside Can't Take it Any
More " and are demanding a moratorium on the further implementation of the
agriculture chapter of NAFTA accompanied by an overhaul of agricultural and
rural policy in Mexico.

Mexico is bracing itself for yet another phase of liberalization in the
countryside. According to the NAFTA, on January 1, 2003, tariffs on all
major food products entering Mexico will be eliminated. Corn, beans and
powdered milk are exempt until 2008. Since 85% of Mexican trade is with the
U.S.A., the new year will bring a flood of highly subsidized food products
into Mexico. Elimination of the current 59% tariff on chickens means the
displacement of Mexican chicken production. An estimated 70% of people
working in the Mexican pork industry will lose their jobs.

"Mexico was once self-sufficient in basic grains but now, largely as result
of NAFTA, it imports 95% of soy for consumption, 58% of rice, 49% of wheat,
and 40% of its meat" explains Nettie Wiebe, member of the National Farmers
Union, who recently traveled to Mexico to meet with Mexican farm leaders.

Wiebe stresses that "the NAFTA has devastated the Mexican countryside: rural
impoverishment has reached a crisis point with over 75% of rural Mexicans
living in poverty. Everyday, an estimated 600 peasant farmers are forced
off their land. Clearly, this next phase of trade liberalization simply
cannot be tolerated. "

Wells, President of the NFU, agrees wholeheartedly with the demands being
made by the Mexican farm organizations. Wells says that "the NAFTA has not
brought wealth and prosperity to either Mexican or Canadian farm families.
Both of our governments have systematically dismantled many of the programs
and infrastructure that benefited us as farmers. Now, we are all producing
for an international market in which prices have fallen dramatically while
input costs continue to rise. The major winners in NAFTA are the
transnational agribusiness corporations who increased their market power
through globalization."

Nettie Wiebe concludes: "The Mexican farm protests are part of a worldwide
opposition to free trade in agriculture. The V?a Campesina, a global peasant
and farm movement, rejects trade liberalization in agriculture, whether in
the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) or
the NAFTA. Instead of free trade of food, which is really `forced trade,' we
demand food sovereignty. That is, that all people have the right to produce
their own food in culturally appropriate."

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