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
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
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 other crops.
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
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 220,000 now.
- 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 beans.
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
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 vitality.
Reach Art Hovey at (402) 523-4949 or email@example.com.