This Thanksgiving, as we get together with family and friends, Jean and I would once again like to send our warmest wishes to all South Dakotans. During this festive time of the year, let's not forget that the first Thanksgiving was a time to thank the good Lord for all of our blessings. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be able to work on your behalf in the United States Senate. Even when the debates on Capitol Hill get contentious, working for the people of South Dakota is a privilege that I'll never take for granted.
The men and women who wear the uniform of the United States make incredible sacrifices for us, and every year on November 11 we pay tribute to them and all they have done to defend our freedoms. Veterans Day is a reminder to all of us to thank those who have bravely answered the call to serve.
Free and fair trade is vital to South Dakota's economy. Not only does it open up important markets for South Dakota products, it results in higher wages and supports our small businesses and producers. Last year, we exported $1.2 billion in products to other countries, including goods, machinery and electronic equipment. In particular, the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA — between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, South Dakota's top two exporters in 2016, continues to benefit our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers.
Cyberattacks are becoming more and more common, as the internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives. We are putting more of our personal information online than ever before, whether it's when we do our online banking, make a purchase, pay bills or something as simple as sharing photos on social media. It is important that we take steps to protect ourselves from cyberattacks.
In the next 12 months, Congress will ramp up its work on the reauthorization of the farm bill, which expires Sept. 30, 2018. With the farm economy struggling over the past four years and commodity prices down, the policy changes we enact in this farm bill are as important as ever. I've been talking closely with farmers and ranchers across the state about their priorities for the upcoming farm bill to make sure their voices are heard.
South Dakota's 126 daily and weekly newspapers are the heart of communities across our state. Local papers play a vital role in keeping citizens informed of what's happening in their hometown, from decisions being made at city hall to milestone anniversaries and other celebrations within the community. They also allow us to learn and understand events happening across the globe, right from the comfort of our homes. Reading the paper over a cup of coffee each morning is a part of my daily routine while I'm at home.
Free and fair trade plays an important role in the American economy. It not only leads to more jobs and higher wages, it allows American producers to promote and sell their goods across the globe by leveling the playing field with other competitors. Our farm economy, in particular, benefits from trade agreements. As our number one industry in South Dakota, I continue to promote and prioritize trade agreements that benefit our farmers and ranchers.
For more than two decades, Dakotafest has been an annual event that brings together ag leaders and producers from across the state together into one place. With nearly 500 agribusinesses on-site to showcase their latest products, it is one of the premier ag events of the Northern Plains. I was grateful for the opportunity to join U.S. Sen. John Thune, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and area producers for Dakotafest's annual farm policy forum again this year. Hearing firsthand from South Dakota producers is critically important as we work toward smarter, better policies for farmers and ranchers.