Spring is just around the corner in South Dakota, and many residents are rightfully concerned about the higher-than-normal snowpack levels in the Upper Missouri River Basin, which could cause flooding along the Missouri River in our state.
The Senate recently voted to pass the first major overhaul of our financial system since the Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law in 2010. S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, is a bipartisan effort that begins to roll back the unnecessary and burdensome regulations placed on small banks and credit unions following the financial crisis. This has hindered the ability of those institutions to serve their customers, particularly in rural areas.
The federal government's budget process hasn't worked in more than four decades. I have been a vocal critic of the current system, which largely rubber-stamps federal spending with very little debate or discussion. I recently voted "no" on a continuing resolution, which funds the government for two weeks, through December 22, 2017. This is not a decision I take lightly, and I'd like to take this opportunity to explain what led me to this decision.
In South Dakota, our local banks and credit unions play an important role in helping our businesses thrive and our communities grow. Local financial institutions help families buy a home, start a new business or save for the future. As a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, one of my priorities has been to relieve community banks and credit unions from the unnecessary regulatory burdens imposed on them.
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.