Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Apr 06 2018

Heitkamp Stresses to President Harmful Impact of Proposed Tariffs Across Rural America

Senator Warns Tariffs on Soybeans, Other Ag Products Would Cause One of the Worst Agricultural Disasters in a Generation Across Rural America

FARGO, N.D. — U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today urged President Trump to seriously consider the negative consequences of potential retaliatory Chinese tariffs against American farmers and ranchers and work in a constructive manner to support agricultural producers and rural economies. Yesterday, the administration announced an additional proposed $100 billion in tariffs against Chinese imports.

“These proposed tariffs are a big deal. They would directly impact the farm and ranch families across rural America who need to be able to export their products and who would have less money in their pockets due to a trade war,” said Heitkamp. “China must be held accountable for its record of trade abuses and intellectual property theft, but the administration’s drastic trade policies would instead come back to hit American farmers and ranchers where it hurts. Tariffs on critical exports like soybeans would cripple North Dakota’s ability to sell our products, and we’d most likely face an impending farm crisis. For over a year, I’ve been raising alarms within the administration about how its trade policies could severely impact agricultural producers. I urge the president to help grow our rural economy, not endanger it.”

In a letter to President Trump, Heitkamp expressed her continued concerns about the negative effects tariffs would have on North Dakota exports, and she warned of the potential agricultural disaster that would envelop rural America. Click here to read the full letter.

Following China’s initial announcement of a proposed 25 percent retaliatory tariff on American soybeans— as well as tariffs on other American agricultural products like corn, wheat, sorghum, and beef, Heitkamp stated her serious concerns about an impending trade war that American producers cannot afford. In 2016, North Dakota’s soybean production was valued at nearly $2.23 billion, of which, 71 percent or over $1.5 billion, was exported to China. In the morning following China’s announcement, U.S. markets experienced a loss of $1.72 billion in soybean futures.

Heitkamp has continued to press the administration on her serious concerns about North Dakota exports and the impact of the administration’s trade policies on North Dakota farmers and ranchers, particularly as they face drought and low commodity prices. In a meeting with now-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue before his confirmation in early 2017, Heitkamp pushed Perdue to be a strong voice for agricultural exports in the president’s cabinet. And in November, Heitkamp urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to protect the U.S. crop and livestock sectors in any NAFTA renegotiation.

Heitkamp is committed to protecting crucial export promotion programs in the 2018 Farm Bill, and she wrote an op-ed in March 2017 about the critical role agriculture exports play in sustaining North Dakota’s economy.


Heitkamp has long fought to guarantee North Dakota farmers have fair access to China, including through a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance case in December 2016. In September 2016, she helped announce an earlier compliance case to hold China accountable for over-subsidizing its domestic crops.

Last year, China agreed to open its market to U.S. beef after Heitkamp urged the president to press the issue at a summit with Chinese President Xi Jingping.

After the administration announced new tariffs on aluminum and steel, Heitkamp warned of the potential for retaliation by our trading partners, which would hurt the ability of North Dakota farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers to export their products. Heitkamp has cosponsored bipartisan legislation introduced by Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake to nullify the aluminum and steel tariffs announced by the administration on March 8.

Heitkamp has been fighting to protect and expand markets for North Dakota goods, pushing the administration to back off damaging threats to withdrawal from NAFTA and speaking out against tariffs that would put the state’s economy at risk.

Exports are a critical part of North Dakota’s economy. For example:

  • 60 percent of North Dakota’s exports to China are agricultural products, according the U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • 71 percent of North Dakota soybeans go to Asia, primarily China, and the export value of the 2016-2017 crop was $1.5 billion, according to the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.
  • North Dakota is the ninth largest agriculture exporting state in the country, with $5.3 billion in goods exported worldwide in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • North Dakota is in the top 10 most exposed states to new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, according to the Brookings Institution.
  • North Dakota is home to over 17,000 workers employed in industries that are particularly dependent on production and consumption of steel and aluminum, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.



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