Who pays for agricultural subsidies? Agricultural dumping between the United States and Latin American countries have swept agricultural production and prices in nearby countries while increasing displaced rural workers’ migration.
Leticia and her family came from Mexico in 2004 because their small dairy farm operation went downhill. Her father used to lease a piece of land and raise dairy cows, selling the production to Nestle Waters of North America.
“My father and other dairy farmers belonged to a small cooperative renting a bulk milk cooler. Once a week, Nestle trucks came and picked up the milk and cream to be transported to the factories,” Leticia told VOXXI in an interview. However, in 2003 Nestle dropped the price of milk they were paying to small producers and started being inconsistent with weekly pickups. Several times, the milk got spoiled because of lack of transportation.
Leticia’s family headed north the following year.
This Mexican family might never know that their story is just one of a million similar stories taking place every year due to the powerlessness of Mexican farmers to compete with the United States’ agricultural dumping.
“… NAFTA liberalized agricultural trade dramatically over a short period of time, Mexico imports most basic grains and meats almost exclusively from the United States, and Mexican farmers grow many of the crops that compete with the imports,” wrote Timothy A. Wise, Director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, in a column for Triple Crisis. Wise chairs the Institute’s Globalization and Sustainable Development Program (GDAE).
The dairy industry, an example of a subsidized industry
In the dairy industry, for instance, U.S. dairy farmers have been price-protected since the Agricultural Act of 1949, which sustained butter, cheddar cheese or nonfat dry milk at current support prices. The Act also included other multiple crops and meats.
Scheduled to end in 1999, the program was extended until 2001. The new 2002 Farm Act extended agricultural subsidies for the third time until 2007. The Act provided approximately $16.5 billion of funding for agricultural subsidies each year.
A continuation of the 2007 Act, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 extended and increased the programs for five additional years, now at a provision of $288 billion over the five year period. This bill incorporated provisions in energy—including biofuels, a conservation reserve, nutrition and nutrition education and rural development.
In the dairy industry, for instance, the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) provides direct payments to producers on certain products when the actual price falls below the target level of the Boston Class I milk price—the national base price. Despite the fact that the subsidy has not been used due to higher prices in the market, the provision was included in the Farm Bill extension—with changes recently passed by the U.S. Congress in the “fiscal cliff” agreement.
Yet, the United States had carried out another provision, the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP) that pays cash bonuses to dairy product exporters when U.S. prices are higher than international prices. This allows them to sell at lower prices abroad instead of forcing conditions of competitiveness, the real concept behind the idea of free markets.
Through these policies, the dairy export industry has increased commercially so much in the past decade that the subsidy is hardly used, and has been recommended to end by the International Dairy Foods Association.
The 1994 NAFTA agreement, the most important bilateral trade agreement that included dairy products, removed all dairy tariffs for trade with Mexico. However, Canada excluded dairy products in their portion of the NAFTA agreement.
These are the real reasons behind Leticia’s family loss of their livelihood.
Impact of NAFTA in combination with US agricultural subsidies
Click here for "U.S. Dumping on Mexican Producers" table
The impact of NAFTA and other international agreements in combination with U.S. agricultural subsidies expel millions of Mexicans and other rural workers from their countries of origin into the United States territory every year.
According to Wise, who carried out a comparison of farm product prices in the U.S.-Mexico trade between 1997 and 2005, Mexico was flooded with agricultural imports exported at prices below production costs.
In his research, the eight products studied included corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, beef, pork and poultry. All products showed significant increase in exports—from the lowest 159 percent in soybean to the largest in pork exports at 707 percent.
For all products, Mexican producers’ prices fell from 44 to 67 percent from early 1990’s levels, declining local production and increasing import dependency. Mexican crop production also fell except for corn and meats, which at lower prices, was rapidly adopted for consumption in the Mexican families’ diet.
“An estimated 2.3 million people have left agriculture in a country desperate for livelihoods,” said Wise. The study estimated that the cost to Mexican producers was around $12.8 billion in the nine-year period, more than 10 percent of the U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade value annually.
The other cost, the one that we, north of the border pay, is the constant migration of these displaced rural workers into the United States.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Born in Havana in 1853, Martí is Cuba’s national hero. As an intellectual and a poet he <a href="http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/historyofthecaribbean/p/josemarti.htm">fervently opposed Spanish rule on the island, consistently writing against the crown. </a>At the age of 16, he was convicted of treason and sedition for supporting the rebels during the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878) in Cuba. Afterwards, Martí was exiled twice -- living in Spain and later in the United States -- where he continued to dream of a free Cuba. Abroad, he attempted to muster support for the independence cause among Cuban exiles. In 1884 Martí and a relatively small group of Cuban exiles made their way to Cuba to start a revolution, an initiative that led to his death during one of the first confrontations with Spanish authorities on the island. Cuba did not attain independence from Spain until the Spanish-American War of 1898, nevertheless, Martí is upheld today as the nation’s most revered hero. Picture of the Monument to Jose Marti, a Cuban national hero, at Revolution Square in Havana, taken on February 8, 2008. (ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín
“El Libertador” (The Liberator), as General Simón Bolívar is commonly known, was born in Caracas, New Granada, to a wealthy family. Though educated in Spain, Bolívar firmly believed in the South American independence movement. <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/simon-bolivar-241196">He is credited with successfully liberating modern day Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Bolivia (named after the General), through his military campaigns.</a> After achieving independence, Bolívar intended to unite a still ideologically divided continent but was later accused of wanting to replace the Spanish crown with a military dictatorship of his own. On Dec. 17, 1830 the regional hero died of tuberculosis in Santa Marta, Colombia. During the wars of Independence in South America, <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/jos%C3%A9-de-san-mart%C3%ADn-37154">José de San Martín was an Argentine general that helped liberate Argentina, Chile, and Peru.</a> He is famously known for venturing across the Andes from Argentina to Chile to fight and free the countries from Spain. San Martín is still revered today in much of the Southern Cone as a national hero. On July 26, 1822 the two generals met in Guayaquil (then an independent state), but what they discussed there is still unknown. Bolívar took power over the newly freed nations and <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/521474/Jose-de-San-Martin/6398/Campaign-across-the-Andes">San Martín, avoiding further political involvement, spent the rest of his days as an exile in Europe with his daughter. </a> He died in Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1850. Image: Depicted is the first and only time the two leaders met in Guayaquil; Los Padres de la Independencia (The Fathers of Independence).
Ernesto "Che" Guevara
Born on June 14, 1928, Guevara is perhaps one of the most controversial figures of recent Latin American history. Born in Rosario, Argentina, the young asthmatic boy became an amateur athlete and <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/che-guevara-9322774">studied medicine in Buenos Aires.</a> After graduating, Guevara and his best friend Alberto Granado set off on a journey across South America which Che studiously documented in his personal diary, and which was immortalized in <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318462/">Walter Salle’s “The Motorcycle Diaries.” (2004)</a> The people he met and the conditions he observed on this journey were the catalyst to the Marxist beliefs that led him to join Fidel Castro in the overthrow of the Batista regime in Cuba. After Castro took power, Guevara tried to export his revolutionary ideas, <a href="http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1515647-che-guevara">leading a guerrilla movement in Bolivia that would result in his assassination on Oct. 9, 1967.</a> Though many revere him as a cultural hero -- a revolutionary fighting for social equality and a Latin America free from imperialistic influences -- <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/che-guevara-9322774">others remember the ruthless man that executed between 156 and 550 prisoners in Cuba without trial.</a>
Born on Aug. 13, 1926, Castro was raised in an affluent family amid the poverty of the Cuban people. He studied law at the University of Havana where he became involved in anti-imperialist and socialist movements. After several unsuccessful attempts at overthrowing Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship -- along with his younger brother Raúl, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara<a href="http://www.biography.com/people/fidel-castro-9241487?page=2">, Castro led the guerrilla's overthrow of the dictator in 1959</a>. Once in power, Castro embraced Marxism, establishing Cuba's Communist government that continues to stand today under Raúl’s rule. In this March 22, 1959, file photo, Fidel Castro, then Cuba's Prime Minister, salutes the crowd at a labor rally supporting him in Havana. (AP Photo/File)
Born on Aug. 8, 1879, Zapata was a sharecropper and a horse trainer in Mexico under Porfirio Díaz’s regime. Zapata was also a community leader at the time and was the first to join Francisco I. Madero in attempting to overthrow Díaz. <a href="http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thehistoryofmexico/p/planofayala.htm">He campaigned for agrarian reform, denouncing the feudal-like system in place at the time</a>. Once in power, Madera turned his back on Zapata, who then wrote his <a href="http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/thehistoryofmexico/p/planofayala.htm">Plan of Ayala</a> to denounce Madera. The Plan is a manifesto of what the Zapatismo movement's ideals -- land reform and freedom. <a href="http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/316-emiliano-zapata-1879-1919">Leading his followers, Zapata fought with the cry “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Liberty).</a> By the time of his assassination in 1919, the lands confiscated under Díaz had yet to be fully restored. The Zapatista movement lives on today. In January 1994 the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) re-launched the initiative for land and agrarian reform in Mexico. <em><strong>CORRECTION: a previous version of this slide incorrectly stated Emiliano Zapata's birth year as 1979. Zapata was born in 1879. </strong></em> Photo: Two children carry banners of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata during a march of peasants against the economic model of Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Mexico City, on January 30, 2009. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
José Doroteo Arango Arámbula was born on June 5, 1878. The Mexican revolutionary is best known as Francisco Villa or Pancho Villa and <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/pancho-villa-9518733">became a fugitive after he shot a man who was harassing his sister.</a> While living as an outlaw, Villa joined Francisco Madero’s uprising against the Porfirio Díaz regime. He became a colonel and defended Madero’s government until he too was removed from power by an uprising. Later he joined forces with revolutionary Emiliano Zapata against Victoriano Huerta’s government. Villa was assassinated on June 20, 1923.
Born on November 19, 1919, Lebrón moved from Puerto Rico to New York in 1940 searching for a better life. What she found was poverty, prejudice and the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/01/AR2010080103400_2.html">unhappy life of a seamstress</a>. Soon after she began corresponding with Puerto Rican nationalist and intellectual Pedro Albizu Campos -- who was imprisoned for plotting against U.S. President Truman in 1950. Hero or Terrorist? In 1954, Lebrón <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2008889,00.html">led a Puerto Rican nationalist group into the U.S. Capitol building</a>, shooting and injuring five Congressmen in an attempt to gain Puerto Rico’s Independence. Once taken into custody, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/01/AR2010080103400_2.html">police found a note in her purse. </a>Expecting to die that day, Lebrón wrote: "My life I give for the freedom of my country. The United States of America are betraying the sacred principles of mankind in their continuous subjugation of my country." For the attack Lebrón was sentenced to 56 years of prison, but was released on the 25th year of her sentence. She continued fighting for her ideals until her death on August 1, 2010. Photo: Capitol police hold Lolita Lebrón and two others in custody on March 1, 1954, after they opened fire from the House gallery.
Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos
Born on September 12, 1891, <a href="http://www.nl.edu/academics/cas/ace/resources/campos.cfm">Campos is known as the leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement.</a> The Spanish American War of 1898 had interrupted Puerto Rico's recently instituted autonomy from the Spanish crown, becoming a territory of the United States. Governed by officials named in Washington and with little voice in local affairs, nationalists like Albizu Campos fought to make their country an independent nation. His efforts towards independence frequently placed him behind bars both in Puerto Rico and United States. He is best <a href="http://www.historynet.com/president-harry-s-truman-survived-assassination-attempt-at-the-blair-house.htm">known for a failed assassination attempt against President Harry S. Truman.</a> He died on April 21, 1965.
Under his pseudonym and always appearing behind a black mask, Subcomandante Marcos conceals his identity as he continues Emiliano Zapata’s agrarian reform fight in Mexico. In January 1994, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/06/international/americas/06mexico.html?_r=2&sq=zapatistas%20marcos&st=cse&scp=4&pagewanted=all&">the mysterious figure and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) revitalized Zapata’s movement in Chiapas</a>, a poor state in southern Mexico. Railing against President Vicente Fox’s neoliberal policies, the Zapatistas brought national and international attention to the indigenous communities living in the area. Known for his prophetic speeches, good humor, and pipe,<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1214676.stm"> Marcos has become for many a new kind of “Che” -- a leader of the people against repressive powers.</a> Some believe he is in fact Rafael Sebastián Guillén, a 43-year-old native of Tamaulipas who taught philosophy at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City before moving to Chiapas to work with Indigenous communities. Marcos insists on wearing the mask until the conflict is resolved.
Born on March 31, 1927 in Arizona, Chávez is recognized as one of the leaders of the <a href="http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html">Mexican American Civil Rights Movement</a> in the United States (also known as the Chicano Movement), which took off in the 1960s. Using non-violent forms of protest -- marches, hunger strikes, boycotts -- Chávez <a href="http://www.biography.com/people/cesar-chavez-9245781">fought to improve working conditions for farm workers.</a> These efforts led the Mexican-American civil rights leader to help found the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. The labor leader's many hunger strikes are thought to have contributed to an early death in 1993. On Oct. 8, 2012, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/obama-cesar-chavez-child-labor_n_1949157.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular">President Barack Obama honored Chávez with a National Monument in California.</a> In this March 8, 1989 file photo, César Chávez gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alan Greth, File)