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Mexican small farmers call for scrapping of agriculture in new NAFTA

Staff Writer |
Thousands of Mexican small farmers are demanding that a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement do away with that accord’s agricultural chapter, saying it is unfair and has caused them great economic hardship.

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“In these years of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the lack of public policy in favor of the countryside has forced 6 million hectares to be taken out of cultivation,” Jose Jacobo Femat, the national president of the Confederation of Peasant and Popular Organizations (Cocyp) told EFE.

Femat says 100,000 agricultural experts who once worked in public institutions and government programs have lost their jobs, 50,000 agricultural engineers are no longer employed in the countryside and millions of Mexicans in rural areas get by on less than the minimum wage as a result of that NAFTA chapter.

The representative of Cocyp, which is part of the National Board of Fisheries and Rural Organizations (Conorp), an organization that represents some 200,000 small producers, said that NAFTA section caused a large portion of the peasant population to fall into poverty and extreme poverty.

According to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval), Mexico’s poverty rate stood at 61.1 percent in rural areas and at 41.7 percent in urban areas in 2014.

The biggest problems, Femat says, are free price-setting, lack of government control and the fact that exporters and intermediaries buy farm products at a paltry cost and then turn around and sell them for a big profit.

“It’s the exporter, the final packager who sends the product abroad, who benefits from the farm producer’s (labor), exploiting him to the fullest,” Femat said.