July 19, 2003 --
CropChoice news -- Lincoln Journal Star: Here's a
hint about the value of the North American Free Trade Agreement
to farmers in Mexico:
Ninety percent of them don't export anything.
Under those circumstances, Jose Luis Alcocer de Leon and
Emilio Lopez Gamez said in Lincoln on Monday, the 8-year-old
pact signed by Mexico, Canada and the United States has not
had a freeing effect on their country's farm economy.
In fact, it's about as thorny as the cactus Alcocer de Leon
raises back home as a specialty crop.
"It would be better to cancel it," he said.
Alcocer de Leon and Lopez Gamez came to a state Capitol hearing
room in Lincoln on Monday as guests of the National Family
Farm Coalition, the Nebraska Farmers Union and of an array
of other Nebraska-based farm groups that have taken a critical
view of NAFTA on the U.S. side of the border.
Farmers Union President John Hansen said he was not surprised
by what spokesmen for a Mexican farm coalition called the
Independent Center for Farmworkers and Farmers had to say
as its leadership pressures Mexican President Vincente Fox
to call for changes in the agreement.
Hansen cited a speech he made the year before NAFTA took
effect. "I said it was going to collapse the price of
corn, cause enormous economic trouble in rural Mexico and
cause a dramatic social upheaval as folks are forced out of
the rural areas."
Hansen said NAFTA discontent in Mexico had to be a big factor
in Sunday's national election in which Fox's conservative
National Action Party may have lost substantially from its
base in the Mexican Congress.
Lopez Gamez, also a member of the Economics Department at
the Autonomous University of Sonora, provided a variety of
facts and figures to underscore what he sees as an untenable
situation for Mexican producers of corn, edible beans and
He pointed to "a dramatic drop in the prices of grain
in our country," including one for corn of about 21 percent
-- from about 600 pesos per ton, or about $60 in 1994, to
about 470 pesos now.
Lopez Gamez also offered a long list of other damage the
Mexican farm coalition blames on NAFTA. That includes:
- A huge increase in corn imports from the United States
from about 200,000-300,000 tons per year before NAFTA to
about 8 million tons per year now.
- A drop in the number of Mexican producers eligible for
credit, from about 3 million in the early 1990s to about
- A jump in the number of people leaving the land and trying
to join in the migration exodus to the United States. Since
the beginning of the 1990s, the estimated number of people
trying to leave has gone from 250,000 a year to 500,000.
- Lopez Gamez and Alcocer de Leon are part of the outcry
for major revisions in NAFTA, including a move toward guaranteed
minimum prices for grain, especially white corn and edible
But, Lopez Gamez said through an interpreter, "the government
insists there's nothing wrong with NAFTA. It's really working."
Any changes would have to be mutually agreed to by the United
States and Canada.
He and Alcocer de Leon said President Fox saw migration to
the United States as a solution, not a problem. He said Fox
also saw the money migrants send back to relatives in Mexico,
perhaps $200 a month from a Mexican meatpacker in Nebraska,
for example, not as a problem but as a source of economic
Reach Art Hovey at (402) 523-4949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.