By Georgina “Gina” Gutierrez: Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
Trade demands our best and that makes us better.
It makes us better producers because we seize more opportunities. It makes us better consumers because we enjoy more choices. It makes us better competitors because it leads to more innovation.
That’s why, as a farmer in Mexico, I support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) —the proposed trade agreement between a dozen nations around the Pacific Rim, including the United States, Japan, Canada, Vietnam, and my own country.
When I think back to how my great-grandfather worked our dairy farm, I’m amazed at what he did. He bought an operation that milked by hand. Then he introduced a bit of new technology—a machine that attached to the cow’s backs. He used it to milk his herd one by one, in a slow but steady process.
It got the job done and was good enough for its time. By today’s standards, however, his modernization is woefully inefficient. Using his methods, we couldn’t make it through the 420 cows we currently milk and surely wouldn’t generate 37 liters per day from each one.
If he were to come back and examine our operation, it probably would appear to him as an unbelievable scene from a science-fiction movie. He’d be amazed to see the pedometers and heat detectors we use to track the activities of our cows and startled to learn that we even monitor the electrical conductivity in their milk.
We wouldn’t have made it this far without trade. Although the march of technology would have delivered some benefits in the absence of trade, the ability to sell our products to customers outside of Mexico—as well as the added competition from dairy farmers in the United States and elsewhere—has forced us to adapt and grow.
Trade inspires us not only to keep pace but also to push forward. We’re getting better all the time.
Today, we’re part of the second-largest dairy cooperative in Mexico as well as the only Mexican company that enjoys the ability to sell fluid milk in the United States. This is another way trade has helped us: We’ve had to make a lot of improvements to meet the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has granted us the ability to enter U.S. markets.
This is another thing that would astonish my great grandfather: selling to U.S. customers and meeting U.S. regulatory standards.
Because of trade, our production is more efficient and our milk is of higher quality than ever before.
I’m confident that we make the best milk in Mexico—and that we can compete with anyone.
We couldn’t have done it without buyers in the United States. Neither could we have done it without American exporters: We haven’t merely counted on people to drink our milk, we’ve depended on American inventors and manufacturers to offer us access to new products and services. We produce milk made in Mexico, but we’re also consumers of technology made in the United States.
I don’t think this would have happened without the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which began a generation ago to make it easier to exchange goods and services across our shared continent. We’re still separate countries, with our own cultures and languages and loyalties, but our economies are integrated in sensible ways for the benefit of all.
Now I’m hoping TPP will offer similar opportunities on a bigger scale. We’ll come into competition with excellent dairy farmers in Australia and New Zealand. I’m sure this will create new pressures and anxieties—but in the end, this will inspire us to rise to the challenge. Dairy farmers everywhere will improve their practices.
Trade will keep on making us better, in every way imaginable. It will make us better in unimaginable ways, too. Just as my great grandfather couldn’t have envisioned what we’re doing now, I can’t foresee all of the changes my great grandchildren will make as they produce milk in Mexico and supply it to the world.
But I do know one thing: the benefits won’t arrive on their own.
If we’re going to continue getting better, it will take public policies that are designed to work with production activities along with social causes as well as wise trade agreements—starting as soon as possible with TPP.
Georgina “Gina” Gutierrez is a fifth generation dairy farmer in the central region of Mexico. Committed to telling the farmers story and promote milk consumption and it’s benefits through social media, Gina is a member of the Global Farmer Network.