Thursday, April 20, 2006

Toward a Green Agenda on Immigration

My old college buddy Tom Philpott (we worked together at UT's Daily Texan then co-edited an alternative zine) suggests a way to improve immigration policy that also promotes sustainable agriculture: "By developing and promoting local production for local consumption on both sides of the border," he writes, "the US economy can wean itself from its schizophrenic addiction to disenfranchised Mexican labor. And the Mexican economy can begin to work for its own citizens, not for the global investor class."

Tom should know. He and I don't keep in touch as well as I'd like, but he's a first-rate writer and knows this subject from all angles. After college he was a reporter for a Spanish language financial news publication called Financero in Mexico City, and later covered international trade out of New York for one of the wire services, if I remember correctly. Now he runs an organic farm with friends somewhere out in the boondocks in North Carolina (I need to get out there to visit). Tom's suggested solution rightly focuses on the root macroeconomic causes of worker displacement, namely US trade policy. If we want to remove incentives for Mexican workers to come north, he writes, we must begin by:
forging cross-border coalitions to challenge the assumption that state power exists to promote long-distance trade. One place to start: the 2007 Farm Bill, which Congress will soon take up. The bill will govern how the government subsidizes agriculture. Since the 1970s, the federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars rewarding bulk production of environmentally ruinous commodities like corn, which also threaten rural livelihoods in Mexico.

Let's work to rewire federal farm policy to promote organic agriculture destined for nearby consumption. Ending the commodity-corn subsidy alone will instantly provide relief to beleaguered rural Mexicans now contemplating a hazardous trip north to a nation that both relies on and scorns them.
I noticed not long ago that Iowa Congressman Brian Kennedy came down to Laredo for a photo op to demagogue about immigration reform. I wonder if, when he went back to Iowa, he broke the unhappy news to his constituents that ending pork barrel subsidies for corn must be part of the long-term solution? I doubt he'd be so anxious to campaign on immigration if environmentalists made those the terms of debate.

Via Texas Civil Rights Review

No comments: