Idaho Press | 1 June 2018
NAFTA has hammered rural communities
by Christina Stucker-Gassi, Meridian
The United States enjoyed a $2.5 billion agricultural trade surplus with its NAFTA partners before 1993. By 2014, that surplus eroded into a $1.1 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada — a $3.6 billion swing. If that number leaves you feeling whiplashed, you’re not alone.
NAFTA has hammered rural communities by aiding the consolidation of corporate power over agriculture by restricting choice and threatening our federal, state and local sovereignty over ag policy. For example, over 50 percent of American fluid milk supply is handled by one processing company. This consolidation restricts competition in the market, allowing processors to set a low buying price for milk — at the cost of dairy families — and to set a high selling price for dairy products — at the cost of consumers. This “get big or get out” mentality should come to an end.
We need “fair trade,” not just free trade. Our elected officials should not support any free trade agreement that puts profits ahead of people. A new NAFTA should reject Investor-State Dispute Settlements and should reinstate country-of-origin labeling.
ISDS give multinational corporations the same standing as a sovereign country and allows companies the ability to sue federal and local governments for passing local-ag preference policies that may hurt Big Ag’s bottom line. The result has been a chilling effect on the national and local level policy aimed at “buy local” ag campaigns. Additionally, corporate lobbyists have successfully declawed any attempted country-of-origin labeling requirements.
NAFTA is a political and practical reality that has brought both winners and losers. Moreover, independent farms need more than just fixes to NAFTA; they need more support from the upcoming Farm Bill, too.