I was told while growing up that this is a nation of opportunity. Today, in Aroostook County, opportunities are fewer and farther between.

I’ve lived in the Masardis-Ashland area all my life. I worked at the Irving Forest Products sawmill in Nashville Plantation for 32 years. In 2008, Irving announced it was closing the mill permanently and eliminating 44 jobs. This was just another blow to our town, our county and to our Maine economy.

It was very difficult for our community to deal with these job losses, because there isn’t a lot of other opportunity in our rural area.

Since we live right near Canada, we have seen firsthand the direct impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on our community. Many sawmills moved to Canada, which cost us a lot of jobs here, and the sawmills that are left bring in wood from Canada, which means lower prices for local wood and local loggers. I have a woodlot I would like to cut and sell, but the price has dropped so low because of imports from Canada that I can’t afford to.

Since I lost my job at Irving, I have found work at another sawmill here in our area. There are still some jobs in local sawmills, but many fewer. For people who do find work, there are fewer shifts.

I think we do need to re-negotiate NAFTA so it is fair and levels the playing field for workers like me and communities like ours.

Decisions about trade agreements should be based on the interests of the people, not just greedy CEOs. Corporations can go abroad, find loopholes in our system and literally take us to the limits, while they cash in on our demise.

Bimbo shared his story with the Maine Fair Trade Campaign (MFTC). For more information on MFTC, click here.

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