The U.S. enjoyed a $2.5 billion agricultural trade surplus with its NAFTA partners before 1993. By 2014, that surplus eroded into a $1.1 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada — a $3.6 billion swing. If that number leaves you feeling whiplashed you’re not alone.
NAFTA has hammered rural communities by aiding the consolidation of corporate power over agriculture by restricting choice. For example, over 50 percent of American fluid milk supply is handled by one processing company. This consolidation restricts competition in the market, allowing processors to set a low buying price for milk — at the cost of dairy families — and to set a high selling price for dairy products — at the cost of consumers.
We need “fair trade” not just free trade. Our elected officials should not support any free trade agreement that puts profits ahead of people. A new NAFTA should reject Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) and should reinstate country of origin labeling. NAFTA is a political and practical reality that has brought both winners and losers. Moreover, independent farms need more than just fixes to NAFTA, they need more support from the upcoming Farm Bill too.
Christina Stucker-Gassi, Meridian