The last decade of the twentieth century was heralded as the 'end of agrarian reform' in Mexico and the initiation of a new era of market-led agricultural policy and practice. The impact of neoliberalism and the North American Free Trade Agreement on smallholder maize production has been widely conceived as negative, associated with ecological degradation, rural emigration and cultural erosion. Yet, some twenty years later, all evidence suggests that smallholder maize production is continuing in Mexico, albeit in evolving structures and forms. This article uses a farm-level survey implemented in three Mexican states to assess the current condition of maize farming in Mexico. The authors revisit past categorizations of Mexican farmers and apply similar approaches to explore what maize-producing households are doing with their maize, and what current patterns of production imply for future Mexican maize policy. They find evidence of greater persistence and adaptability in Mexican maize farming than is often presented. On the basis of their analysis, they advocate for a reconsideration of the underlying assumptions of public policy, highlighting the heterogeneity of the maize landscape and the unrealized and generally unrecognized potential this heterogeneity represents.
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