U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is among more than a dozen members of the Senate who have called on the U.S. Commerce Department to provide a financial impact analysis of how any changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would affect states like her own that rely on significant crop and livestock economies.

“It is imperative that before any changes are made to NAFTA, or any other free trade agreement, that economic analysis that illustrates the impact on the full supply chain of the industries involved be shared,” according to the bipartisan letter signed by 18 U.S. senators and sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Nov. 20.

Specifically, the lawmakers requested an economic analysis examining and evaluating the impacts to crop and livestock sectors as a result to any change to NAFTA.

In their letter the senators said that as the top global food and agricultural products exporter, the United States is heavily dependent upon access to international markets.

In fact, the U.S. Agriculture Department reports that every $1 in agricultural exports generates an additional $1.27 in economic activity, and every $1 billion in farm exports supports 8,000 jobs, the senators wrote.

Therefore, any changes to U.S. trade policy made during the current round of NAFTA renegotiations must be positive for agriculture, particularly because American farmers and ranchers are struggling financially, the lawmakers wrote, and “net farm income has declined by approximately 50 percent over the past four years.”

Ernst and her colleagues also pointed out that it has taken years for the United States to establish and grow international agriculture export markets, making it “imperative that no steps be taken to jeopardize these gains.”

“We must continue to move the global presence of U.S. agricultural products forward, not backward,” they wrote.

Among the Republican members signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri; Steve Daines of Montana; John Hoeven of North Dakota; Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas; Mike Rounds of South Dakota; and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), was among Democrats signing the letter.
Copies of the letter also were sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.