You think we in the U.S. have suffered from the influx of immigrants after NAFTA? As if. In Missouri, there are only about 65,000 undocumented workers, mostly working at those chicken and hog processing plants owned by Tyson, MoArk and Smithfield.
No, you want to talk about pain after NAFTA, says Marilyn Lorenz (at left in picture) of the Interfaith Committee on Latin America, try being Mexican.
Lorenz, who spoke last week at West County Dems, pointed out that NAFTA required Mexico not only to change its constitution but also to eliminate farm subsidies. But you better believe we kept our farm subsidies. You’d hear the squeal from here to China and back if big ag lost its subsidies.
As for the Mexican Constitution, it used to guarantee that poor farmers could not lose their land. In that agrarian society, being able, no matter how poor you are, to keep your land, meant you could feed your family. That would be one of the most valued provisions in the Constitution. No more.
After NAFTA, the U.S. subsidized its farmers to the tune of $10.1 billion a year. Companies like Archer Daniels Midlands shipped their cheap, subsidized corn to Mexico and drove down the price that Mexican corn farmers could get by 50-70 percent.
In 2003, these low corn and coffee prices plunged 70 percent of the farmers in Southern Mexico into extreme poverty. People who couldn’t make a living farming sold their land to U.S. companies and went looking for work in the cities and in the maquiladoras along the border.
Meanwhile, the U.S. companies that bought up whole villages used it for industrial farms, since it was cheaper to farm down there than here. And once U.S. companies controlled the agricultural market in Mexico, they could charge what they wanted. Food prices shot up 247 percent.
Those who sold their land to U.S. companies sometimes ended up in the maquiladoras, but those factories generally employed only young women. A fifteen or sixteen year old woman is more easily bullied than a man. The women work, usually, for maybe two dollars a day, working from six until six with one half hour break a day to eat and use the bathroom.
And the men, unable to find work, often figure they may as well use the money from selling their land to pay a coyote, say, $7000 to get them into the United States. Of course, once they’re here, they cannot go back because they wouldn’t be able to return. So families are permanently torn apart.
After CAFTA, workers in Central America and the Dominican Republic found themselves working half a day to earn enough money to buy half a gallon of milk. That same worker, if he can get a low paying job in Kansas City, could earn enough to buy a half gallon of milk in twenty minutes.
They’d prefer to live in their own country with their families, but desperation makes these decisions for them.
And ADM, Land O’ Lakes and Cargill aren’t sorry to see the Central American workers driven to this country. Big ag wins coming and going while the little guys have been royally screwed.