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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mexico Spends Big on Its Farmers

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Mexico's government will pump a record $16 billion into the countryside this year to help farmers cope when trade barriers with the United States and Canada are removed completely in 2008.

Conservative President Felipe Calderon said Monday that the most money ever to be spent on the countryside in one year would go to producers of corn, beans, sugar and milk, many of whom will struggle to compete when trade barriers are lifted.

Mexico, the United States and Canada have been gradually lifting trade barriers since 1994 through the North American Free Trade Agreement, under which trade among the three neighbors is due to be completely free in 2008.

Poor farmers, particularly those growing Mexican staples of corn and beans on small, inefficient plots worry that they will not be able to compete with heavily subsidized, high-yield U.S. farms when the barriers come down.

Large swathes of Mexico's countryside are emptying as bankrupt farmers emigrate illegally to the United States in search of better-paying work.