WASHINGTON—Congress is expected to vote Thursday on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) or New NAFTA. Rather than rectify the fundamental shortcomings of its predecessor – the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – New NAFTA will maintain the rules that have crippled family farms and strengthened corporate control over food and agriculture systems in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
On Tuesday, 33 groups delivered a letter to Congress calling for the rejection of New NAFTA and asking for a new trade agreement to better serve farmers, consumers and the environment. These groups represent family farm, ranching, farmworker, local foods, public health and sustainable agriculture interests in the U.S.
Since NAFTA's implementation in 1994, nearly 250,000 small- to medium-scale farmers have been driven out of agriculture, according to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture. The benefits of increased farm exports and profits promised under NAFTA never trickled down to farmers, farmworkers or rural communities. While family farmers suffer, global agribusiness is thriving. Multinational firms now control greater shares of agricultural inputs, seeds and equipment; without effective federal anti-trust enforcement in the agriculture sector and enough competition, farmers must accept whatever prices agribusinesses dictate.
The 33 signatory groups insist that Congress reject New NAFTA and establish alternative trade rules that respond to the needs of family farmers, ranchers, indigenous communities, farm and food chain workers, consumers and the environment.
COMMENTS FROM SIGNATORIES:
Jim Goodman, President, National Family Farm Coalition: “The benefits of USMCA have been greatly oversold to the US farm sector. Climate change is not mentioned, and the new treaty does nothing to curb the environmental damage that was part of the original NAFTA. NFFC dairy producers do not support dumping excess US milk on the Canadian or Mexican markets, as that will force family dairy farmers out of business in those countries. We instead call on Congress to support dairy supply management to deliver fair prices to farmers in all three countries.”
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Program Director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: “New NAFTA does not fix the problems created by decades of unfair trade and increasing corporate concentration in our food system under its predecessor. Rather, it will increase agribusiness exports in a race to the bottom, further limit regulation of food safety and intensify environmental impacts of industrial agriculture – policies that will worsen both farmers’ economic straits and the safety of our food.”
Based in Minneapolis with offices in Washington, D.C., and Berlin, Germany, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.
Read the letter to members of Congress here.