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Why have so many Mexican corn farmers left their farms (and come to the US)?

April 11, 2013

By Meredith Schroeer
Originally Published: December 09, 2010

In her article Far from Home in the May 2010 MCC Women’s Report, Linda Gehman Peachey reminds us that many notable persons in the Biblical narrative were forced to leave their homes in search of food. Among them were Abram and Sarai, and later Jacob and his family, who went to Egypt during a time of famine at home. Elimilech and Naomi and their two sons went to Moab to search for food also.

Peachey argues that many immigrants from Mexico are fleeing to the U.S. for the same reason: they can no longer feed their families. “While natural disasters such as drought, earthquakes and hurricanes sometimes play a role, economic policies can also have a devastating effect. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, has been very harmful to Mexican farm families. It forced them to compete with cheaper imports from Canada and the U.S., and required Mexico to end many of its agricultural programs. Over the past fifteen years, two million farming jobs have disappeared, and another eight million farmers abandoned their land because they no longer had access to credit, government subsidies, or a guaranteed price for their products.”

The majority of Mexican farmers affected by NAFA were traditional corn farmers. After NAFTA took effect in 1994, these farmers were no longer eligible for Mexican government subsidies. Additionally, they were now required to compete in the marketplace with heavily-subsidized U.S. and Canadian agribusiness products. Between 1995 and 2006, U.S. government subsidies to American agribusiness for corn production ranged from $1.8 billion in 1996 to $9.3 billion in 2005.

“For the farmers who managed to hold on, monthly income fell from about 2000 pesos a month in 1991, to 230 pesos in 2003. Meanwhile, food prices increased nearly 600 percent from 1994-2000. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the number of Mexicans migrating to the U.S. increased dramatically since NAFTA came into force in 1994. Two-thirds of undocumented Mexicans currently in the U.S. have come since 1994” (Peachey).

In public debates over illegal immigration, one hears very little about the U.S. trade and agricultural policies which have driven millions of Mexican corn farmers off their land. Perhaps if these policies were more widely known Americans would have a different perspective on the many issues surrounding illegal immigration.

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Illinois People's Action - BLOG

Writings and sharings from the Peace and Justice Committee of the Mennonite Church of Normal, IL.


Writings and sharings from the Peace and Justice Committee of the Mennonite Church of Normal, IL.

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