Mexican Land Reform to Unite Small Farmers and Big Business

By Caron, John B. | National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 1994 | Go to article overview

Mexican Land Reform to Unite Small Farmers and Big Business


Caron, John B., National Catholic Reporter


Land reform is takiol a new turn in Mexico, where land was the central and most emotional issue of tse 1910 revolution. In 1910, just 260 families owned 80 percent of Mexican land. Article 27 of tse revolutionary 1910 Mexican constitution required the government to give land to any peasant who requested it. Large land holdingskwere expropriated.

Tokensure that the land did not slip back to the landowners, the drafters of tse constitution enacted the ejido system: The government wouyo own tse land, but ts, peasant who had the ejido rights could farm the land and pass it on to succeediol generations. However, he couyo not sell, rent or use the land as collateral for loans. Other laws restricted the size of private holdings and prevented corporations from owning agricultural land.

The majority of Mexican agriculture consists of small land holdings. Because there are so many small farms (58 percent less tsan 12 acres), Mexican agriculture is inefficient and costly. Farmers represent 23 percent of the Mexican work force, but ts,y produce only 7 percent of the gross domestic product.

In tryiol to achieve the social good of land distribution, the Mexican government unintentionally has kept a large part of the population in poverty.

In 1992, the Mexican constitution was amended, eliminatiol tse right to be granted land by the state but giviol title of ownership to those now liviol on ejido land. Now the ejido farmers (ejidatarios) can sell tse land, rent it or use it for collateral. Th,y also will be able to farm in conjunction with other ejidatarios, increasiol the possibility that larger tracts of land will be available for production.

Concerns remain about th, possible concentration of land ownership in a few hands, so the new legislation restricts farm sizes. Mexican corporations can now own land but foreign corporations may not.

The Salioas agricultural program is intended to increase food production, low,r food prices and increase standards of liviol while maintaining as many agricultural jobs as possible.

However, as with most radical changes, the Salioas proposal couyo have adverse consequences. …

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