Mexican Farmers Protest, But Nobody’s Listening


Harvesting Corn In Mexico By Hand

Dozens of Mexican farmers blocked a lane of the border bridge from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso for 36 hours to protest the removal of Mexico’s last tariffs on US and Canadian farm goods.  The protest ended today.

Activists lifted a blockade at the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, ending a 36-hour protest against the removal of Mexico’s last tariffs on U.S. and Canadian farm goods.

Mexico abolished its last protective tariffs on basic crops like corn, beans and sugar on Tuesday, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Mexican farmers have complained they won’t be able to compete with U.S. farmers who can sell cheaper products because they receive government subsidies.

Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church has warned that the changes could spark an exodus to the U.S.

“It is clear that many farmers will have a difficult time competing in the domestic market, and that could cause a large number of farmers to leave their farms,” the archdiocese said in a statement issued on New Year’s Day.


More across the Rio Pequeno.

The protest was about stopping unrestricted imports of US corn in Mexico.  The protesters had pledged to stop US grain from entering Mexico, but none of the trucks they stopped were carrying corn. The blockade was lifted around noon today.

Front pages of Mexican newspapers, meanwhile, were filled with predictions that the trade opening would hurt Mexican food production and cause conflict.

“The open battle against NAFTA begins,” read a banner headline in the daily La Jornada.


“This is going to be a complicated year, and there will certainly be a lot of demonstrations,” said Enrique Perez, a spokesman for the National Association of Farm Distributors, one of the groups organizing the marches.

Mexico, the birthplace of corn, obtained a 15-year protection for sensitive farm crops when NAFTA was negotiated in 1993. That protection period ran out on Jan. 1. Mexico still grows almost all of the corn consumed here by humans, but imports corn to feed animals.

Of course, you didn’t read about this on the front page of traditional media in the US.  What a surprise!  Is that because the flow of goods is into Mexico and not the US?

Meanwhile, according to the Hartford Courant:

Mexico has plunged deeply into a model of globalized agriculture in which farmers are ill-prepared to compete, and even people who don’t farm for a living are suffering.

Nobody knows that better than Vicente Martinez, who grows corn, beans and some coffee in the green mountains of Tepetlan, Veracruz. In July, his daughter Felictas died trying to cross the desert to enter the United States. Martinez blamed a combination of free trade and dwindling government farm-support programs that leave rural families with little choice but to migrate. His daughter found no work in their farming town to support her four children other than cleaning houses for little pay.

“The only thing left to do is run for the United States … or sit around looking like idiots, because there’s nothing to do here, nothing,” said Martinez, whose daughter was abandoned by a people smuggler in Arizona.

In other words, because Mexican farmers with small plots of land cannot produce enough for their own needs and have little left to sell, they cannot survive.  Rising prices for what they buy means economic ruin for them. How can this be when prices for corn and beans are up?

And while global prices for these commodities are booming, Mexico’s farm parcels tend to be tiny and only marginally productive, so higher prices internationally have done little to improve people’s lives here.

Farmers like Juan Antonio Lopez, who plants corn on about 7.5 acres in Pino Suarez, Durango, have little corn left over to sell, and often must buy grain at higher international prices for their families and animals.

Even somewhat larger farms have trouble storing crops and getting them to market, in part because the government has allowed state purchasing agencies, granaries and distribution networks to wither, preferring instead to rely on market forces.

Subsidies to Mexican farmers for corn production have stopped, in part because NAFTA purports to forbid them.  Plans to increase production during the 15-year NAFTA hiatus have produced no results.  US agriculture is still receiving subsidies for corn production. And so the subsistence model of Mexican corn growing leaves the smallest farmers desperate.  US farmers have advantages of scale and of subsidies.  The disparity between Mexican and American farmers is yet another reason for immigrants to flee these conditions and enter the US.  The connection between the two is extremely strong.  But in the presidential debates about immigration the topics of NAFTA and global corn prices are seldom, if ever, on the agenda.

And the effect of all this in the US?  The Houston Chronicle is reporting that US corn growers see this as a good step: Mexico provides an additional market.

For South Texas corn farmer Brian Jones, the lifting of the last agricultural tariffs under NAFTA on Tuesday could make for a more profitable new year.

“It has helped us just because of the extra outlet for sales,” said Jones, a fourth-generation farmer. “It’s just grown our market.”

So don’t expect to hear about this protest in the traditional media.  And don’t expect to read about the connections between NAFTA and immigration.  Expect instead to hear more of the nonsense that a higher, longer, more technological wall is just what’s needed.


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  1. And then there’s this old, April, 2007 diary from my orange period.

    • Alma on January 3, 2008 at 04:19

    I hadn’t heard a word about it from our media.

    I hadn’t known there was still more crap from NAFTA to kick in.  I wonder what other crap hasn’t kicked in yet?

    • Tigana on January 3, 2008 at 07:22

    Gotta love those front pagers. DemfromCT didn’t know that an official he was complaining about (William Steiger) was also his Bird Flu boss and the head of the Security and Prosperity

    Partnership. He says the SPP is all a conspiracy theory.

    For the Canadian take on this – a very serious one – go to

  2. to a debt-based society seems to be the larger picture.

    One thing Mexicans have is land, homes, livestock and crops free and clear – their constitution makes guarantees about the people’s ownership of goods which the US ought to envy, but doesn’t.  In the US most people owe debt on property and never realize the bank can demand it all back any time.

    But as you say, they lack cash and crops have been the only way.  Until:  debt.  Now, just lately, they are giving out credit cards to the young with no questions asked.  Walmart set up an in-store “bank” where they can get a loan and spend away.  Mexican friends tell us that only in the last five, but particularly two years, cars are a breeze for young Mexicans to obtain (with the REPO sector a fast-growing one).

    Flanking the NAFTA corridor (I am floored that anyone could call the SPP “conspiracy theory,” they ought to come down here and have a look around) we see construction booming.  Young workers migrate away from farms/family in many cases, and get lured into the credit card rat race.  We do see areas (everything within a couple hundred miles of the NAFTA corridor) which are indeed booming.  The infrastructure and highway construction is off the charts, US drivers would be amazed in those regions.  When did a nation ever go from burros to superhighways and cars (maybe 70% of which are under credit contract) in 40 years?

    Mexican friends tell us that it is much too easy for the young to come by credit cards with no credit history.  The TV of course tells them all the junk they just must have, boomboxes, the right clothes, whatever.  Then they end up spending all their time chasing their financial tail just to keep up with increasing debt – that illusion of “wealth” which worked all too well in the US.

    Alas, we see it coming:  when the rug is inevitably pulled out from under young debtors and they are hostage to it all… probably there will be an effort to trade land off for debt.  Happens every time.  That’s how the US has been bought out from under the public.

    Imagine that… after 50 years of fighting communism, secret services worldwide slaying millions of people for that “cause,” now the US mortgage industry has been sold out to the Chinese.

    So it goes with the lords of banking.  

  3. The new N America–Canada supplies energy (oil, gas, hydro), the US supplies food, Mexico chips in with energy and labor.  The std of living decreases in all 3, but the rich get much richer.  They control the governments and the media–when down is up, they win.  The bastards.

  4. with imports from Mexico years ago. Sorry if i feel no sympathy for the Mexican farmers. It sucks. but that’s the way it is if you allow such BS ‘agreement’.  

  5. This will be death to Mexican farmers.

    And to Mexican corn…the cradle of corn.

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