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This week is National Small Business Week, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the millions of small businesses that serve as the backbone of our nation's economy. While many of us may associate Small Business Week with the storefronts on Main Street, people don't often realize that small businesses also include the approximately 1.9 million small family farms just like mine that are integral to creating jobs and supporting communities across the country. 

Starting, owning and growing a small business isn't easy. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50 percent of small business fail within five years. As the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) remains uncertain, keeping a small business afloat has been even harder for owners and their employees in the Farm Belt, whose very livelihoods depend on America's ability to buy and sell with our trading partners. 

The importance of NAFTA for small operators like me cannot be overstated. Since entering the agreement, U.S. exports to our neighbors in the north and south have nearly quadrupled, allowing our food and agricultural industries to grow and support more than 43 million American jobs. Without NAFTA, a lot of those jobs — including small business jobs — would be in jeopardy. 

But within the global economy, U.S. farmers depend on more than just free trade to Canada and Mexico. China represents the second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports, and escalating trade tensions have resulted in proposed retaliatory tariffs on products from beef to soybeans. On the other side of the globe, the European Union, the U.S.'s largest trading partner, threatens to "decisively defend its interest within the framework of multilateral trade rules." 

The mere threat of retaliatory tariffs is already yielding the types of results many of us fear we could see if a modernized NAFTA is not negotiated. Steep tariffs reduce our ability to export — reducing our need to grow and produce, eliminating jobs and raising prices on the American consumer. 

Here's what that means for the farm I run with my father and siblings: We raise and sell premium bulls for farmers to introduce into herds that often produce the beef you eat or the milk you drink. Without NAFTA or the promise of trade with other countries, our customers' ability to sell their products would be severely diminished, in turn limiting our ability to sell our bulls, grow our farm and support our family and community. 

While large commercial operators may have the resources to weather this storm, most small operations like mine certainly do not. That's why there are farmers and families counting on President Trump to successfully negotiate a modernized NAFTA agreement and resolve trade tensions with China and our allies. 

I appreciate President Trump's efforts to stand up for America's interests and improve our trading partnerships. It was because of this commitment that two out of every three farmers and ranchers like me voted for him in 2016. He campaigned his way into the Oval Office by promising to "make America great again" and stand up for the people who feel forgotten in Washington. 

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In many ways, he already has. But all of the progress he has made for rural communities could unravel if we are no longer able to sell our home-grown goods to families in the United States and around the world. 

As farmers and ranchers, we aren't the small businesses you see every day. You don't walk into our stores or mingle with our employees. 

But when you sit around the dinner table, odds are you can thank a farmer for putting the food on your plate. There is no better way for President Trump to celebrate National Small Business Week than by standing up for the millions of farmers across the country, delivering a modernized NAFTA and resolving the trade disputes with China that are already harming rural America. 

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Read or Share this story: https://www.wisfarmer.com/story/opinion/2018/05/07/celebrate-small-business-week-keep-nafta-strengthen-trade/588864002/