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Three largest farm groups ask governments to modernize NAFTA

Train cars at grain facility
Primary message of U.S., Canadian and Mexican farm groups on NAFTA negotiations is "do no harm."

The Trump administration, political pundits and business groups have all been weighing in on renegotiating the 20-plus year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. But what about the farm groups who have watched NAFTA help build some of their biggest markets?

The largest farm organizations in the three NAFTA partners have written their governments letters reiterating their calls that the NAFTA renegotiations should “aim to modernize the agreement rather than dismantle it.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional Agropecuario, which represent hundreds of thousands of farmers in each country, all said agriculture represents one of NAFTA’s biggest success stories, a development that seems to have been lost on some members of the Trump administration.

In their discussions, the presidents of the three farm group presidents agreed on the need to build on the original agreement’s success by looking for ways to increase trade volumes.

“NAFTA has boosted the incomes of millions of farmers and has facilitated the development of profitable export markets,” said CFA President Ron Bonnett, whose Ottawa-based organization represents more than 200,000 farmers and farm families.

‘Solid foundation’

“When it comes to overall positive results for North America’s farmers and ranchers, NAFTA has proved itself as a solid foundation for trade,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Just as farmers have new tools and technology for food and fiber production, we believe that an updated NAFTA agreement can help the three nations become even stronger trading partners.”

CNA President Bosco de la Vega, reflecting on the economic benefits of trade, said it is very clear,“The NAFTA agreement has had a positive impact for the agricultural sector, including the exponential increase in trade flows between its partners.

“Currently,” he said, “NAFTA markets are characterized by high level of complementarity, the possibility to face the challenge of food security in a better way, an open trade system with clear and fair rules. Taking these into account, we believe that today the NAFTA members have a big opportunity to even increase this positive outcome.”

All parties further commit to meeting with their governments to insist that NAFTA re-negotiations should be built on the principle of “doing no harm.”

Setting out goals

They said the NAFTA discussions should seek:

  • Increased and improved regulatory alignment.
  • Improved flow of goods at border crossings.
  • Further alignment of sanitary and phytosanitary measures using a science-based approach.
  • Elimination of non-science based technical barriers to trade.
  • Revisions that reflect technological advances since implementation such as digital trade, etc.

Agriculture industries in each NAFTA country would greatly suffer from disruptions to trading relationships developed over the last 23 years, the presidents said. Farmers have increased productivity and improved their competitiveness to address the rapidly growing demand worldwide for healthy and sustainable food products. Losses due to NAFTA changes would severely stunt this progress.

AFBF, CFA and CNA are committed to working with their respective administrations to ensure that a modernized NAFTA continues to be a success story for all farmers.

For more information on the negotiations, visit

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