The North American Free Trade Agreement is vital to the economies of the United States and its two closest neighbors. And the impact is just as significant in our state, which is why the South Dakota Corn Growers Association has vigorously advocated for approval of a renegotiated pact. Margins are tight on the farm and our export markets are more important than ever.
NAFTA negotiations have been ongoing since last August. After several unproductive rounds of talks, the three countries finally made significant progress and say they’re closing in on a potential agreement. Now it’s time to work out the remaining sticking points and seal the deal. Time is of the essence.
Mexico and Canada, our NAFTA partners, are by far the two biggest importers of South Dakota agricultural products. Nearly three-fourths of all of the ag products that our state exports go to Mexico (39%) and Canada (35%).
Trade between South Dakota and Canada amounts to nearly $1 billion annually. Last year, our state exported $536 million in goods to Canada and imported about $414 million worth of goods from there. Top South Dakota products to our northern neighbor were animal feed, pork and beef.
Trade between South Dakota and Mexico surpassed $429 million in 2017. Our state exported $345 million worth of products to Mexico and purchased $84 million from them. Leading South Dakota exports there were meat products, grains and oilseeds.
On a national scale, since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have grown more than four-fold, from less than $9 billion to $38 billion. That money has helped bolster our rural economies. In an analysis of USDA data, the U.S. Grains Council determined that one in every 10 acres of U.S. farms is planted to feed Canadians and Mexicans.
Thanks to NAFTA, Mexico was the top export market for U.S. corn in the 2016/17 marketing year and Canada was the No. 2 exporter of U.S. ethanol, seventh-largest exporter of distillers grains and ninth-largest exporter of corn.
Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have all benefited greatly from NAFTA. So, too, has South Dakota. The SDCGA has worked closely with our congressional delegation, the National Corn Growers Association and other free-trade advocate organizations to push for approval of an updated NAFTA agreement that would serve our interests for years to come.
We need NAFTA, and we need it now.