Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, shakes hands with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, accompanied by Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, after they spoke at a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington.

Note from the authors: The following reflects unified support, with shared language, expressed by several states and state departments of agriculture about the importance of keeping NAFTA strong. The authors are unified in their opinions on the importance of NAFTA to Utah's agriculture and food industry. Members of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) are speaking up in their individual states with a similar message.

Canada and Mexico are our closest neighbors and trading partners. Both are vital markets for Utah’s agriculture and food industry. In fact, they are the state’s third- and fourth-largest agriculture and food export markets today.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has created new export opportunities for Utah farmers and ranchers. An integrated North American market is vital to Utah producers’ economic vitality, especially in rural Utah. In 2016 alone, Canada and Mexico accounted for more than $177 million in agricultural trade with Utah. This accounts for 17.6 percent of Utah’s agriculture and food exports.

Utah agriculture depends on a growing international economy. There is no doubt NAFTA makes it easier for farmers and ranchers to enter the marketplace and sell their products. There is also no doubt the over-20-year-old trade agreement needs updating. A modernized NAFTA will help expand market opportunities for America’s farm and ranch businesses, while the loss of NAFTA would have serious repercussions for Utah’s agriculture and food industry.

The end of NAFTA would mean the loss of $31 million annually for beef producers, $15 million annually for the dairy industry and $72 million annually for edible-food manufacturers. Utah would be harmed considerably by the loss of this trade agreement, and rural communities would be some of the hardest hit.

We urge all parties to swiftly modernize NAFTA in a way that does not harm North America’s agriculture and food processing industries. Certainty and stability need to be created so food producers can feel confident as they look to sell their products abroad.

As NAFTA negotiations continue, we strongly encourage state leaders to be engaged more. States play an important role in this country and should be at the table as these important negotiations take place. There should be enhanced and formalized mechanisms for states to consult with the federal Consultative Committees on Agriculture and to serve as official advisers to their relevant committees. Input from state leaders will help ensure a comprehensive understanding of issues under consideration and their impacts.

Trade with Canada and Mexico is vital for agriculture in Utah. As we continue to negotiate a modernized NAFTA, it is important that the gains agriculture has made under NAFTA are preserved so agricultural trade with our North American neighbors can continue to grow and prosper.

LuAnn Adams is the Utah commissioner of Agriculture and Food. Derek Miller is the president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah.