Quote of the week: Food and the immigration debate

From an April 2007 New York Times Magazine article by Michael Pollan:

By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the [US government] farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities — or to the United States.

The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since NAFTA is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s.

(More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico’s eaters as well as its farmers.)

You can’t fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.