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Published December 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

NAFTA means more exports from farms

‘A chance to rethink NAFTA” (column, Nov. 22 Forum) claims the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade agreements in general are “wrecking our agricultural economy and lowering living standards for working people.”

By: Ed Schafer , None

Washington

‘A chance to rethink NAFTA” (column, Nov. 22 Forum) claims the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade agreements in general are “wrecking our agricultural economy and lowering living standards for working people.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is NAFTA is one of the most successful trade agreements in history and has benefited farmers, ranchers and consumers in North Dakota and throughout North America.

Although not every kernel of corn or every pound of beef produced in our great state is destined for Canada and Mexico, exports are vital to North Dakota’s economy. Of the

$5.49 billion in agricultural receipts the state generated in 2007, 46 percent came from export sales, with more than half of those exports going to Canada and Mexico.

The plain fact of the matter is that international trade agreements such as NAFTA make the market for U.S. farm products bigger. That benefits North Dakota and 49 other states, as well.

Last year, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico totaled nearly $27 billion. That was more than the next four markets combined and 150 percent higher than their level in 1994 when NAFTA took effect. Thanks to NAFTA, Canada is now the largest single market for our agricultural products and Mexico is No. 2.

In that light, it’s pretty clear that the only thing that may need rethinking are the views put forward in “A chance to rethink NAFTA,” which are simply at odds with the facts and the best interests of America’s farmers, ranchers and consumers.

Free trade works.

That’s the long and the short of it.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Schafer is a former two-term governor of North Dakota

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