Ag & food advocacy groups call for new way on NAFTA

Urgent call for policies in support of family farms, rural economies

As the new Congress and new Administration continue to shake up “business as usual” in the nation’s capital, policies will begin to take shape on trade relationships. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is on the top of the list — and paying close attention will be farmers, ranchers and agribusiness corporations.

Indeed, family farm and sustainable ag groups have stepped forward and are calling for prioritizing fair and just policies in support of sustainable rural economies. In fact, they have prescribed a set of principles for any new policies with major U.S. trade partners, Canada and Mexico. These leading groups are:

The common concern of these groups remains steadfast: to ensure the economic viability of family farms and restore the vitality of rural economies. Vigilance to protect against corporate giveaways in trade agreements is still necessary under the new leadership in our government.

Getting it right by making it fair

NAFTA has been controversial since its inception for promoting the interest of agribusiness and other multinational corporations over those of family farmers.

Any renegotiation should start with an open assessment of NAFTA that includes both rural and urban communities, followed by a transparent negotiating process that eliminates the secrecy and backroom deals that has plagued past trade negotiations.

In a statement of principles for NAFTA renegotiation, the groups asserted that U.S. trade deals “have contributed to the economic and social erosion of rural communities in the U.S. and oftentimes devastation of its trading partners and fail to address very real problems of price volatility and environmental sustainability.”

Protecting farmers and farmworkers

The advocacy groups called for rules that respect the ability of local and national governments to set policies that support their farmers, support local food systems and regulate pesticides.

Farmers in all three NAFTA countries are facing three consecutive years of price drops and farm debt. The groups called for countries to “have the right to and ability to protect their farmers from unfair imports that distort the domestic market” and apply existing laws to prevent agribusiness dumping of commodities below their cost of production. Additionally, NAFTA should protect, not undermine, the rights of farmworkers to decent wages and working conditions in all three countries.