San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Presidential Candidates Talk Farming and Trade

Five presidential candidates sat in on a panel discussion Monday to present their views on the agriculture and farming  industry, and to explain how they wouldcreate national agricultural policy if elected president.

The forum, which was hosted by the National Agro-Industry Chamber (CNAA) at the Supreme Elections Tribunal Auditorium in San José, granted the candidates 15 minutes each to present their positions and plans for the industries.

Prior to the forum, ea ch candidate was given a 26-page CNAA presentation outlining the “hopes and frustrations” of the thousands of members of the agriculture community and the issues they would like the presidential candidates to consider when making national policy.

“There are thousands of small-and medium-sized farms throughout rural zones in this country,” said Alvaro Sáenz, president of the CNAA. “They represent thousands of jobs and, in some rural areas, they are the most significant industries… We know that a presidency is a temporary position but, as farmers, we develop, work and dedicateourselves to making quality products as our careers. Our positions are permanent, and we hope you will consider that when constructing agricultural policy.”

Three of the five candidates in attendance referenced the impacts of free trade

and how it has affected the economy.

Rolando Araya, the Patriotic Alliance Party candidate, scolded current policymakers or failing to develop proper safeguards within the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA), while Ottón Solís, candidate for the Citizen Action Party (PAC), cautioned that the government is proceeding too quickly into a free-trade accord with China, which potentially could be detrimental to local producers and farmers.

Walter Muñoz, candidate for the National Integration Party, took a different stance, commenting on the benefits of the free-trade agreement with Canada and saying that further such alliances could bolster agricultural sales and international distribution of home-grown products.

Another central theme of the forum was the continued development of sustainable farming practices, a central theme of frontrunner Laura Chinchilla’s presentation.

“Sustainable growth is precisely the method that will improve national farming practices,” said Chinchilla, who represents the National Liberation Party. “It will improve the development of products and limit the environmental impact of the farms.”

According to Sáenz, the agriculture and farming industry generates almost 15 percent of the gross domestic product and accounts for 35 percent of the country’s exports. The State of the Nation, an independent report released Nov. 3, reported that there were 245,876 workers in the agriculture sector in 2008.

–Adam Williams


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