Three leading farm organizations in North America want NAFTA re-negotiations to focus on modernizing the agreement, rather than tear it apart.

Talks between Canada, U.S. and Mexican officials got underway Wednesday in Washington, D.C. and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario (CNA) have sent a joint letter to the negotiators outlining their positions.

CFA President Ron Bonnett, AFBF President Zippy Duvall and CNA President Bosco de la Vega held a joint news conference in Washington on Wednesday and outlined the five areas pinpointed in the letter that is based on the principal of "doing no harm".

Those five areas are: 

- Increased and improved regulatory alignment.
- Improved the 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.

"For agriculture, NAFTA has been good," said CFA President Ron Bonnett and added that Canada, United States and Mexico must build on this success. All three leaders agreed that agriculture represents one of NAFTA'S biggest success stories.

Bonnett outlined $56 billion dollars in reciprocal trade annually between Canada and the U.S., and $4.2 billion between Canada and Mexico - with each the U.S. and Mexico posting a slight surplus. He noted that Canada is the top export market for twenty-nine U.S. states.

"USDA projects U.S. agricultural exports will total 137 billion dollars this year," added AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "The forecast of agriculture imports is 114.5 billion, giving us a trade surplus in agricultural products...of 22.5 billion dollars."

He noted, "So for all the criticisms of our trade deals, we in agriculture want our negotiators to know the trade deals and open markets are largely beneficial to American farmers and ranchers, the communities we live in, do our business in and raise our families."

Duvall made it clear that American farmers and ranchers value the trade relationships that have been formed with their country's two neighbours. He added that Canada and Mexico are the number one and number three customers of U.S. agricultural products and exports, and are the top two suppliers of U.S. agricultural imports.

"We have a vital interest in helping our negotiators make improvements...we are committed to preserving and expanding upon the gains agriculture has achieved and to ensure a modernized NAFTA continues to be a success story for North America farmers and ranchers."

In a new NAFTA agreement, the group is also looking for timely enforcement of trade agreements and prompt resolutions to disputes that may arise in the future.

The CFA, AFBF and CNA also encouraged the negotiators to find unity and common ground during the process.