“Without corn there is no country” is the slogan tens of thousands of small farmers in Mexico are using to protest the full implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in January. The U.K.-based Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) is supporting Mexican Catholic bishops in calling Mexican President Felipe Calderón to renegotiate NAFTA.
“Trade liberalization has filled Mexico with cheap alternatives,” CAFOD’s Roisin O’Hara said in a press release, “leaving small producers unable to compete. Every hour the country imports an estimated $1.5 million worth of agricultural and food products, almost all from the United States. During the same hour, 30 people leave their homes in the Mexican countryside to seek work in the U.S.” Full implementation of NAFTA repealed the remaining tariffs on corn, dry beans, dry milk, and high fructose corn syrup imported from the U.S. and Canada, severely undercutting the economic livelihood of Mexico’s small producers. Since NAFTA began in 1994, millions of Mexican families have been forced to abandon their farms and find work elsewhere.