National Family Farm Coalition: New trade deal is more of the same
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) is disappointed that the renegotiation of the trilateral North American trade deal now known as the US-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has again put the financial interests of multi-national corporations ahead of family farmers, workers, and the environment.
Since the inception of the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1991, family farmers, consumers, labor unions, indigenous people, women’s groups, environmentalists, and human rights activists have pushed back against the treaty, pointing to the many ways it pit workers, environmental standards, and human rights in each country against one another in a race to the bottom – and for maximum profit for international corporations. The new USMCA offers more of the same.
Canada’s dairy protections were one of the most significant barriers to finalizing the agreement. Under the new deal, US farmers will gain access to 3.6 percent of the Canadian market for poultry, eggs and dairy. The impacts will be minimal: Canada’s entire dairy market is smaller than that of Wisconsin.
“President Trump touts USMCA as a big win for US farmers, but it is a huge loss for dairy farmers on both sides of the border. Canadian family farms will go out of business and Canadian dairy farmers will see their incomes fall due to increased US imports. While the slightly expanded market will offer small benefits to some US dairy farmers, it does nothing to reduce the overproduction at the heart of our dairy crisis – rather, it increases the false idea that exports will save us. We must solve the problem of our overproduction through common sense farmer-led supply management programs, not by dumping our excess milk into the Canadian farmers’ market,” said Wisconsin dairy farmer Jim Goodman, board president of NFFC.
The Canadian government has suggested it may implement a subsidy program to offset farm losses. US farmers have fared poorly in the decades since farm subsidies have replaced supply management in this country, with small farms closing and large farms getting ever larger, reducing the population and prosperity of rural areas. Producing as much as possible is now the only way for farmers to survive, leading to widespread chemical use and “fencerow to fencerow” planting, even in environmentally sensitive areas.
Farm subsidies, intended to make up farmers’ costs when overproduction causes farmer prices to drop, cost billions to taxpayers, but often only cover a fraction of farm expenses. The changes in the USMCA appear poised to shift Canada’s farmers out of a system that provides a fair income to farmers and ensures consumers an affordable supply of locally produced food into a production-oriented farming free-for-all like that of the US, with all of its negative economic, social, and environmental consequences.
NFFC is additionally concerned that the USMCA will pave the way for unregulated gene-edited genetically modified organisms (GMOs), further consolidating the control that seed and agrochemical companies hold over farmers. The deal also allows these companies to withhold important information on pesticide safety, with potentially dangerous consequences for farmers, farmworkers, and farming communities.
On a broader scale, the pact makes no mention at all of climate change, leading to the conclusion that the corporate polluters of the world will continue to have free rein to ride roughshod over the environment for their short-term gain.
NFFC believes that rather than pushing other nations into an industrial farming model of low farm prices, overproduction and taxpayer-funded farm subsidy programs, a re-negotiated North American trade deal should put the needs of people in all three nations first, through trade that advances social justice, food sovereignty, and environmental protections. Until trade agreements work towards those values there will be little for working farmers and families to cheer.