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MN Farmers Point Out Inequities In NAFTA

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This year marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But Minnesota farmers say the free trade accord has not exactly been fair.

NAFTA was meant to level the playing field, but Doug Peterson of the Minnesota Farmers Union says 20 years on, it’s only magnified the differences between the U.S. and Latin America.

“We pay our people dollars per hour. In many cases and even today in Mexico, it’s dollars a day,” he said. “NAFTA has not been good for the United States. And as far as jobs in Minnesota, we’ve lost about 13,700 jobs as a result of NAFTA.”

Additionally, the nominal price of food risen by 65 percent. The Economic Policy institute has gone on to say there has been a 21 percent decrease in the number of family farms in the U.S. since NAFTA.

“That’s 171,000 small and family farms that have gone under in the last 20 years nationwide,” Peterson said.

Fresh from a NAFTA 20 year anniversary get together in Mexico City, Peterson brought back a failing report card for the accord.

“We have to be very vigilant in the fact that as we trade there must be level playing fields — on environmental law, labor standards and currency evaluation. No manipulation,” he said.

As the United States moves forward on other trade agreements, Peterson hopes NAFTA is kept in mind.

“The U.S. has paid dearly for NAFTA,” Peterson said, noting that the trade deficit with Mexico is pinned at $50 billion.

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