views "Freedom to Farm" as "dumping"
Huge livestock factories are being built by companies
like Tyson Foods and Smithfields
by George Naylor,
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City, the worlds largest city with over 20 million inhabitants, is a beautiful city but no place for farmers unless they are joining together to forge their demands on the national government and to meet other farmers in North America to understand common problems and investigate common solutions. Mexico City is the center for the Mexican federal government and home of 200,000 farmer member ANEC, Asociacion National de Empresas Comercializadoras de Productores del Campo. Kathy Ozer, NFFC executive director, Karen Lehman of the Institute for Trade and Agriculture Policy, Dave Fredrickson, president of Minnesota Farmers Union, Cory Ollikka, president of National Farmers Union of Canada, and I attended ANECs fourth general assembly December 8 and 9, 2000.
The Mexican farmers stories of their economic and political plight was all too similar to our experiences in the north. While NAFTA didnt immediately force open Mexicos borders to U.S. corn imports, the Mexican government used it as an excuse to do just that. Now corn farmers in Mexico have to watch the Chicago Board of Trade futures prices to see what they will receive for their corn crop. Corn imports from the U.S. have skyrocketed and prices have dropped in half since passage of Freedom to Farm in the U.S. They reported that huge livestock factories are being built by companies like Tyson Foods and Smithfields. At the same time Mexican farmers are harvesting their corn crop and looking for a market at a decent price, trainloads of corn roll into these livestock factories from the U.S.
Because the Mexican farmers are quite aware of the $28 billion in direct government payments by the U.S. government to farmers this last fiscal year, ANECs members view Freedom to Farm as nothing more than what is generally forbidden by international trade agreements -- "dumping." Dumping is selling a product at less than its true cost of production. Those of us from the U.S. expressed the belief that the intention of Freedom to Farm was in fact selling of our products at less than the cost of production for the benefit of some of the same large multinational corporations the Mexicans are seeing expand down there. When I anounced my calculations in pesos of what we hope to set for U.S. corn prices in the Food From Family Farms Act -- about $3.40 per bushel and added handling and transportion to Mexico, the Mexican farmers cheered.
Interestingly, the farmers in Canada see Freedom to Farm as a mechanism for dumping also. The Manitoba Corn Growers have petitioned their trade representatives to impose a tariff on U.S. corn to raise the import price to $3.48 per bushel. They have calculated that to be the U.S. cost of production - -amazingly close to our Food from Family Farms goal. Cory Ollika reported that his organization has encouraged international cooperation by the major exporting countries to raise grain prices for the benefit of farmers all over the world. Such cooperation would include shared responsibility for set-asides and grain reserves. It was noted that five countries provide 90% of exported wheat in the world, while the U.S. alone provides nearly two-thirds of corn and soybeans.
On a tour of the National Museum of Anthropology, Cory and I discovered that the many ancient Indian civilizations in Mexico worshipped corn as a gift from the gods because it could be stored to avoid famine. Here we are in the 21st century with Freedom to Farm policy that forces every bushel produced to be dumped on the international market to depress prices without any reserves for food security. The farmers of Mexico -- those of today and those of centuries past -- have much to teach us. It was clear that a future of dialog and cooperation is on everyones agenda.
About the author: George Naylor is a farmer from Churdan, Iowa and a member of Iowa Citizens For Community Improvement.
|Published in In Motion Magazine - February 1, 2001
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