In the US, more than 300,000 Family Farms went broke during the first ten years of NAFTA (1994-2004), and family farm income continued to decline, despite promises to the contrary. At the same time, Canadian grain and dairy farmers have struggled to survive as prices fell to record lows, with 11% of Canadian family farms forced into bankruptcy from 1996 and 2001 alone. Additionally, over 1.3 million Mexican small farmers were forced off the land and into overcrowded urban areas and US cities.
Corporate control of agriculture increased dramatically under NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Over 80 percent of US corn is exported by three firms: Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Zen Noh. The four largest chicken firms controlled half of the U.S. processing and production market, and the top four U.S. beef packers controlled 81% of the U.S. market. The 10% of U.S. farms that are “large” farms (defined as those with gross sales in excess of $250,000) now produce two-thirds of all agricultural goods on only 32% of agricultural land. These large farms also receive the lion’s share of farm subsidies; by 2002, the top 10% of subsidy recipients collected 65% of total payments, a share worth $7.8 billion.
Skyrocketing Corporate Agribusiness Profits: Cargill’s net earnings more than doubled between 1999 and 2003 — from $581 million to $1.29 billion. ConAgra’s net income increased from $437 million in 2000 to $774 million in 2003. ADM posted strong net earnings of $511.1 million in 2003.
Family Farms Get Squeezed: Prices paid to U.S. farmers fell 40% from 1995-96 to 2004. Between 1994 and 2001, the total contribution of agriculture to the U.S. economy declined by $4 billion. In 2002, net farm income was 16% lower than the average for 1990-95. Total farm business debt rose for the 11th straight year in 2003, for a total increase of almost 50% since before NAFTA.
Broken Promises to Consumers: NAFTA and WTO promoters claimed that any lower prices paid to farmers would benefit the economy as whole in the form of lower food costs. However, according to US Census Bureau figures, the consumer price index for food (real prices for food eaten at home) in the US rose by 22% between 1994 and 2002.