Farming and Food Security
After NAFTA gradually opened the U.S. and Mexican agricultural markets to competition, large-scale farmers in central and northern Mexico thrived. By adopting modern technologies and strict U.S. food safety standards they were able to forge alliances with U.S. customers and open a vast new market. In 2013 Mexico exported almost $7.5 billion worth of farm products to the U.S.
U.S. farmers were also able to benefit from NAFTA since they were able to export to Mexico more easily. Some of them even moved part of their farming operations south of the border. In the U.S. they were faced with problems such as unpredictable labor and water scarcity. In Mexico they could take advantage of easy transportation links to the U.S., cheaper labor and abundant water.
The losers of NAFTA have been thousands of small-scale farmers, especially those in the less fertile and distant southern regions of Mexico. They continued to labor using traditional rain-dependent farming methods and had for decades been dependent for their livelihood on guaranteed prices and government subsidies. When these support mechanisms were phased out they found it impossible to compete.
In a series of assignments, Jarman has documented the effects of free trade policies on farmers in Mexico and Central America, problems with support payments for subsistence farmers in Chiapas, U.S. farmers’ who have moved their operations to Mexico, the implementation of US standards of food safety measures, the treatment of Mexican farm workers in the U.S., philanthropy initiatives by large farming corporations, and innovative tequila businesses in Jalisco.
Janet Jarman Videography, Photography, and Interviews / Candace Barbot and Filip Lein Editors / C.R. Hibbs and Fundar Executive Producers
With many thanks to: Karen Albores, Antonio Beltrán, Julio César, Ken Cook, Nestor González, Libby Haight, Briseyda Peña, Miguel Pulido, Victor Suárez, Eduardo Tort.
NAFTA at 20: State of the North American Farmer Foreign Policy in Focus
Short on Labor, Farmers in U.S. Shift to Mexico The New York Times
Country Profile: Mexico Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations