What’s at stake for farmers, food and the land in a new NAFTA

Corn pile
Used under creative commons license from j_regan

The re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Mexico and Canada begins tomorrow and there is much at stake for farmers and rural communities in all three countries. Despite promised gains for farmers, NAFTA’s benefits over the last 23 years have gone primarily to multinational agribusiness firms. NAFTA is about much more than trade. It set rules on investment, farm exports, food safety, access to seeds, and markets. NAFTA, combined with the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the 1996 Farm Bill, led the charge to greater consolidation among agribusiness firms, the loss of many small and mid-sized farms and independent ranchers, the rapid growth of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and further corporate control of animal production through often unfair, restrictive contracts with producers. It also led to the loss of more than two million Mexican farmers and increased worker migration to the U.S., where much of U.S. fruit and vegetable and dairy production is now dependent on immigrant labor. The Trump administration’s negotiating objectives reflect relatively small tweaks to NAFTA, while adopting deregulatory elements of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Family farm groups have called for the existing NAFTA to be scrapped and propose a fundamentally new agreement with a goal of improving the lives of family farmers and rural communities in all three countries.

IATP has been analyzing, testifying, reporting and speaking about NAFTA steadily since 1990. You can find our NAFTA work collected here.

This is the first in a series of blogs we’ll publish this week to answer some basic questions about what is included in NAFTA, what was promised, how NAFTA has affected agriculture and our food system, and what are clear benchmarks for replacing NAFTA that would better serve farmers, food and farm workers, rural communities, our food system. The blogs pull from the larger paper: NAFTA Renegotiation: What’s at stake for farmers, food and the land?