Summary of Environmental Law in Mexico

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19 Agriculture

 

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The conservation and protection of national lands, including those destined for agricultural purposes, is governed under the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente) (hereinafter Ecology Law) and the Law of Sustainable Rural Development (Ley de Desarrollo Rural Sustentable), issued in December 2001. The use of national waters in agriculture and agricultural wastewater is regulated under the Ecology Law and the National Waters Law (Ley de Aguas Nacionales) and the Regulation thereunder. The Agrarian Law (Ley Agraria) regulates the creation and operation of various forms of agricultural communities, such as ejidos and comunidades.

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19.1 Institutions with Authority Over Agriculture

 

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Agricultural issues are primarily under the jurisdiction of three federal secretariats:

Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA))

The responsibilities of Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA)) are, among other things, to:

  1. Make, implement and evaluate rural development policy;
  2. Promote rural employment, as well as establish programs aimed at increasing rural productivity;
  3. Devise and promote rural investment programs, coordinate the creation of rural associations and groups and provide technical assistance;
  4. Develop programs and issue Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOMs)) dealing with animal and plant health issues and coordinate health campaigns;
  5. Develop and direct the programs and activities related to technical assistance and training for growers;
  6. Design and propose, with the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)) participation, the conservation of farmlands, grasslands and forests.
  7. Plan and propose, along with SEMARNAT, for the construction of irrigation works and the promotion of forest plantations.

Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT))

SEMARNAT is charged with the overall protection of the environment. As far as the protection of the environment in agricultural related activities is concerned, SEMARNAT is responsible for:

  1. Furthering the protection, restoration and conservation of ecosystems and natural resources;
  2. Administering and regulating the use and exploitation of natural resources pertaining to the federal government;
  3. Issuing NOMs regarding the preservation and restoration of the quality of the environment, in coordination with other federal, state and local authorities;
  4. Enforcing such NOMs;
  5. Designing, promoting and distributing technologies and procedures required for the sustainable use of the environment;
  6. Designing and implementing reforestation and ecological restoration programs, in coordination with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities;
  7. Evaluating the quality of the environment and setting up an environmental information system, including the monitoring of soil quality;
  8. Managing, controlling and regulating the use of federal waters, including wastewater discharges;
  9. Designing and building irrigation, drying, drainage, land protection and improvement works, in cooperation with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities; and
  10. Organizing and managing the exploitation of the national irrigation systems in coordination with SAGARPA.

Agrarian Reform Secretariat (SRA)

The Agrarian Reform Secretariat (Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria (SRA)) is in charge of managing ejidos and comunidades, which are common land systems. The duties of the SRA are to:

  1. Apply the agrarian principles set forth under Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, as well as those spelled out under agrarian laws and regulations;
  2. Provide and expand water and land endowments in rural population centers;
  3. Create new agricultural population centers and endow them with land and water;
  4. Grant property rights under the ejido land system, including titles to common lands and waters;
  5. Keep the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional) and an inventory of ejidos and other agrarian communities;
  6. Resolve conflicts related to ejidos and agrarian communities;
  7. Cooperate with competent authorities in land and water conservation in ejidos and agrarian communities; and
  8. Carry out programs intended at improving the standard of living in ejidos and other agrarian communities.

Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA))

The responsibilities of Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA)) are, among other things, to:

  1. Make, implement and evaluate rural development policy;
  2. Promote rural employment, as well as establish programs aimed at increasing rural productivity;
  3. Devise and promote rural investment programs, coordinate the creation of rural associations and groups and provide technical assistance;
  4. Develop programs and issue Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOMs)) dealing with animal and plant health issues and coordinate health campaigns;
  5. Develop and direct the programs and activities related to technical assistance and training for growers;
  6. Design and propose, with the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)) participation, the conservation of farmlands, grasslands and forests.
  7. Plan and propose, along with SEMARNAT, for the construction of irrigation works and the promotion of forest plantations.

Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT))

SEMARNAT is charged with the overall protection of the environment. As far as the protection of the environment in agricultural related activities is concerned, SEMARNAT is responsible for:

  1. Furthering the protection, restoration and conservation of ecosystems and natural resources;
  2. Administering and regulating the use and exploitation of natural resources pertaining to the federal government;
  3. Issuing NOMs regarding the preservation and restoration of the quality of the environment, in coordination with other federal, state and local authorities;
  4. Enforcing such NOMs;
  5. Designing, promoting and distributing technologies and procedures required for the sustainable use of the environment;
  6. Designing and implementing reforestation and ecological restoration programs, in coordination with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities;
  7. Evaluating the quality of the environment and setting up an environmental information system, including the monitoring of soil quality;
  8. Managing, controlling and regulating the use of federal waters, including wastewater discharges;
  9. Designing and building irrigation, drying, drainage, land protection and improvement works, in cooperation with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities; and
  10. Organizing and managing the exploitation of the national irrigation systems in coordination with SAGARPA.

Agrarian Reform Secretariat (SRA)

The Agrarian Reform Secretariat (Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria (SRA)) is in charge of managing ejidos and comunidades, which are common land systems. The duties of the SRA are to:

  1. Apply the agrarian principles set forth under Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, as well as those spelled out under agrarian laws and regulations;
  2. Provide and expand water and land endowments in rural population centers;
  3. Create new agricultural population centers and endow them with land and water;
  4. Grant property rights under the ejido land system, including titles to common lands and waters;
  5. Keep the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional) and an inventory of ejidos and other agrarian communities;
  6. Resolve conflicts related to ejidos and agrarian communities;
  7. Cooperate with competent authorities in land and water conservation in ejidos and agrarian communities; and
  8. Carry out programs intended at improving the standard of living in ejidos and other agrarian communities.

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19.2 Soil Conservation

 

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Desertification and Soil Erosion

A good part of the Mexican territory is affected to a certain extent by desertification resulting from: the abuse of pesticides and fertilizers; the over exploitation of surface and ground waters and natural resources; ground fires; urban and industrial waste disposal, and urban sprawl on fertile lands; and soil erosion, which is made worse by deforestation and inappropriate agricultural, irrigation and grazing techniques that leave the soil exposed to wind and rain erosion.

Ecology Law

The Ecology Law establishes the general criteria and policies regulating soil use for the purpose of preserving and restoring the ecological balance. Article 98 sets forth the general principles for soil use regulation, and provides that: the soil is to be used in a manner compatible with its very purpose, so that its physical integrity and productive capacity are not altered; practices that induce soil erosion, degradation or other adverse environmental impacts must be avoided; restoration projects in areas of severe erosion or deforestation have to be devised; and erosion preventing activities are to be implemented during the construction of public or private works. These principles must be taken into account by the federal government when adopting support programs for agricultural activities, including investment, financing and technical assistance.

Article 103 of the Ecology Law also requires that soil conservation and restoration practices necessary to prevent soil and environmental deterioration be implemented in connection with all farming activities. In areas of severe desertification and erosion SEMARNAT, in cooperation with other federal, state and local authorities, may design and implement special programs regulating land uses and the exploitation of natural resources, with the aim at restoring the ecological balance. Notice of such programs must be published in the Federal Official Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación), prior to their being implemented.

Law of Sustainable Rural Development

This law is intended to promote Mexico's sustainable rural development and an appropriate environment. The law applies to ejidos and rural communities and associations, as well as individuals and entities that carry on rural activities.

The law's objectives include promotion of biodiversity conservation and the improvement of natural resource quality and furtherance of the federal government's conservation and improvement of soils and other natural resources.

Under the law, support shall be given as needed to change production structures in order to reorient land use in the case of high levels of erosion or negative ecosystem impact. In coordination with other sectors, the federal government shall also support the execution of soil and water conservation projects.

Soil Management Studies

The National Institute of Ecology (Instituto Nacional de Ecologia (INE)) and the Institute of Geography at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) perform studies on the dynamic processes in land cover changes and deforestation, so as to understand the trends in degradation, desertification and the loss of biodiversity in a given region.

Official Mexican Standards (NOMs)

NOMs regarding soil include NOM-021-RECNAT-2000, establishing soil fertility, salinity and classification specifications - Studies, sampling and analysis, published on the Federal Official Gazette on 31 December 2002; and NOM-023-RECNAT-2001, establishing the technical specifications to be contained in the cartography and classification for the elaboration of soil inventories, published in the Federal Official Gazette on 10 December 2001.

Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA))

The responsibilities of Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA)) are, among other things, to:

  1. Make, implement and evaluate rural development policy;
  2. Promote rural employment, as well as establish programs aimed at increasing rural productivity;
  3. Devise and promote rural investment programs, coordinate the creation of rural associations and groups and provide technical assistance;
  4. Develop programs and issue Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOMs)) dealing with animal and plant health issues and coordinate health campaigns;
  5. Develop and direct the programs and activities related to technical assistance and training for growers;
  6. Design and propose, with the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)) participation, the conservation of farmlands, grasslands and forests.
  7. Plan and propose, along with SEMARNAT, for the construction of irrigation works and the promotion of forest plantations.

Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT))

SEMARNAT is charged with the overall protection of the environment. As far as the protection of the environment in agricultural related activities is concerned, SEMARNAT is responsible for:

  1. Furthering the protection, restoration and conservation of ecosystems and natural resources;
  2. Administering and regulating the use and exploitation of natural resources pertaining to the federal government;
  3. Issuing NOMs regarding the preservation and restoration of the quality of the environment, in coordination with other federal, state and local authorities;
  4. Enforcing such NOMs;
  5. Designing, promoting and distributing technologies and procedures required for the sustainable use of the environment;
  6. Designing and implementing reforestation and ecological restoration programs, in coordination with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities;
  7. Evaluating the quality of the environment and setting up an environmental information system, including the monitoring of soil quality;
  8. Managing, controlling and regulating the use of federal waters, including wastewater discharges;
  9. Designing and building irrigation, drying, drainage, land protection and improvement works, in cooperation with SAGARPA and other federal, state and local authorities; and
  10. Organizing and managing the exploitation of the national irrigation systems in coordination with SAGARPA.

Agrarian Reform Secretariat (SRA)

The Agrarian Reform Secretariat (Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria (SRA)) is in charge of managing ejidos and comunidades, which are common land systems. The duties of the SRA are to:

  1. Apply the agrarian principles set forth under Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, as well as those spelled out under agrarian laws and regulations;
  2. Provide and expand water and land endowments in rural population centers;
  3. Create new agricultural population centers and endow them with land and water;
  4. Grant property rights under the ejido land system, including titles to common lands and waters;
  5. Keep the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional) and an inventory of ejidos and other agrarian communities;
  6. Resolve conflicts related to ejidos and agrarian communities;
  7. Cooperate with competent authorities in land and water conservation in ejidos and agrarian communities; and
  8. Carry out programs intended at improving the standard of living in ejidos and other agrarian communities.

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19.3 Discharge of Agricultural Pollutants (See Protection and Management of Water Resources)

 

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General Wastewater Standards

The Ecology Law and the National Waters Law (Ley Nacional del Agua) regulate the discharge of agricultural pollutants. The National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua (CNA)) is authorized, with the assistance of SEMARNAT, the Health Secretariat (Secretaría de Salud (SSA)) and the Secretariat of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina (SM)), to issue wastewater discharge standards. Wastewater discharges into national water bodies, including those that could contaminate the subsoil or the aquifers, require a permit from CNA.

The main provision contained in Articles 120 and 122 of the Ecology Law establishes that all municipal, public, domestic, industrial or agricultural wastewater discharges into any drainage system, watershed, river, riverbed, reservoir, as well as any discharge that could permeate the soil or subsoil must prevent the following:

  1. Polluting the receiving body of water;
  2. Interfering with water purification processes; and
  3. Causing imbalances, obstructions or alterations of the natural function and capacity of watersheds, riverbeds, reservoirs, aquifers and other water deposits owned by the nation, or of the drainage systems.

Likewise, Article 121 of the Ecology Law provides that no wastewater may de discharged into rivers, springs, lagoons or ground waters without a permit or authorization being previously granted by federal or local authorities. These general discharge standards contemplated under the Ecology Law also govern wastewater generated by agricultural activities, including the use of pesticides, fertilizers and toxic substances.

Official Mexican Standards (NOMs)

Pursuant to Article 119 of the Ecology Law, SEMARNAT is empowered to issue NOMs in order to protect, control and prevent water contamination. Under the 31 December 2001 reforms to the Ecology Law, SEMARNAT and SM must coordinate to issue NOMs on Mexican marine zones and seawaters.

There is a general standard governing wastewater discharges into national waters and properties. This standard abrogated the prior NOMs that covered these matters, consolidating the provisions thereof. It was published in the Federal Official Gazette on 6 January 1997 as NOM-001-ECOL-1996, establishing the maximum allowable limits of pollutants in wastewater discharges into national waters and properties.

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19.4 Pesticides

 

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See Chapter 11, "Chemical Substances and Products".

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19.5 Agricultural Lands Protection

 

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Rural Aid Program

In October of 1993, the Federal Government signed the Stability, Competitiveness and Employment Compact (Acuerdo para la Estabilidad, la Competitividad y el Empleo); this agreement established a direct rural aid program known as Procampo, replacing the subsidy system and whose goals are to: achieve a more equitable distribution of income; assist the agricultural productive sectors in the diversification of crops; improve the competitiveness of the agricultural productive sector; and avoid the degradation of the environment. The Program provides economic incentives for the conversion of marginal farmlands back into their original sate as forests and jungles or into other uses that enhance the conservation of natural resources. The Federal Government is also attempting to promote and adopt conservation measures by publishing handbooks and erosion inventories and spreading technologies that prevent erosion while boosting production.

Rural Development Districts (DDR)

Rural Development Districts (Distritos de Desarrollo Rural (DDR)) are another mechanism for preventing soil erosion and preserving farmlands; these are regulated under the Law of Sustainable Rural Development (Ley de Desarrollo Rural Sustentable). SAGARPA is responsible for establishing and managing Rural Development Districts for farming, forestry, aquaculture and agro-industrial activities based on each District's ecological and socioeconomic conditions. Each District is made up of a District Council and a collegiate management body in which various government, private and social sectors participate. It also has an administrative unit made of up SAGARPA and the state governments.

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2003