US Farmers Return from El Salvador, Determined to fight against CAFTA approval

Original Publication Date: 
14 December, 2004

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2004-Seven U.S. farmers discussed agriculture and trade policy in El Salvador last week, exchanging experiences and ideas with farmer organizations, regional groups and government officials. The meetings focused on the potential impact of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on family farmers and rural communities.

Two Mexican farmers joined the delegation, representing El Campo No Aguanta Mas (The Countryside Cannot Bear It Anymore), a national farmers movement that is challenging the Mexican government to renegotiate NAFTA's agricultural trade chapter in order to halt cheap agricultural imports from the United States and Canada.

"We came back from Central America even more determined to fight against CAFTA approval by the U.S. Congress," said National Family Farm Coalition President and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member George Naylor, from Churdan, Iowa. "Farmers in El Salvador face incredible odds after years of dislocation caused by war, natural disasters, and low prices for their farm products. Now they're being told that exports are the solution, but we've seen that only the multinational corporations will win with a free trade strategy."

Barbara Kalbach, and a corn and soybean farmer from Dexter, Iowa, and also a member of Iowa CCI said, "Salvadoran families and communities are already being torn apart because of the rural economic crisis: almost 90,000 young women, mostly from rural areas, are working in maquila factories at $4.00/day, and one third of the population has been forced to migrate to the U.S. to look for work. Unfortunately it's clear that the new free trade agreement will only make the situation worse."

"All the agricultural producers we met with, both small and large, are concerned about CAFTA. They felt the agreement was made without serious consideration of their need to survive," said dairy farmer John Kinsman of Wisconsin, vice president of the National Family Farm Coalition, and president of Family Farm Defenders. "The Salvadoran farmers were even more worried after hearing about the negative impacts of ten years of NAFTA on both Mexican and U.S. farmers."

The delegation participated in both public and private forums to discuss common causes of the agricultural crisis in all three countries and shared ideas for better agricultural and trade policies that would favor farmers, rural residents and consumers instead of multinational agribusiness corporations.

"We found out that farmers in Mexico, El Salvador and the U.S. all have a lot in common: we all need better solutions to low prices for our crops than CAFTA, NAFTA, and the WTO," said Bernard Barnaud, a Dakota Rural Action member who raises livestock in Nisland South Dakota. "We saw some great agricultural success stories while we were in El Salvador, including small farmers raising fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, those projects won't be helped under CAFTA, and El Salvador will increase its dependence on imported produce."

FUNDE (National Development Foundation) of El Salvador organized the tour. FUNDE is a progressive research institute that focuses on macroeconomics and local and regional development. The U.S.-based National Family Farm Coalition cosponsored the trip.

Members of the U.S. delegation plan to speak to local and national organizations about the current situation in El Salvador; they will encourage opposition to CAFTA and promote alternative fair trade proposals. A visit to the U.S. by farmers from Central America is being planned in 2005.

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) provides a voice for grassroots groups on farm, food, trade and rural economic issues to ensure fair prices for family farmers, safe and healthy food, and vibrant, environmentally sound rural communities here and around the world. The NFFC (founded in 1986) represents family farm and rural groups in 30 states whose members' face the challenge of the deepening economic recession in rural communities caused primarily by low farm prices and the increasing corporate control of agriculture.

National Family Farm Coalition
110 Maryland Ave, NE, Suite 307
Washington, DC 20002
ph: (202) 543-5675
fax: (202) 543-0978