Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Oct 24 2018

Heitkamp: With Exports Plummeting, ND Edible Bean Growers Need Relief from Trade War

North Dakota Grows 35% of Edible Beans Produced in U.S. – but Trade War has Decreased Exports to EU by 23%

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today urged the administration to push the European Union (EU) to drop retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products like edible beans as they move forward with negotiations for a new free trade agreement.

The EU declared that it doesn’t intend to address agriculture in any new trade agreement as long as the administration’s tariffs on EU goods, imposed in June, are in place. After the U.S. imposed tariffs on imports from the EU, the EU enacted retaliatory tariffs that are hurting North Dakota farmers like edible bean producers – a predictable consequence of the administration’s trade war. North Dakota farmers suffering losses may have to decrease production due to the trade war’s impact on their markets.

“The administration’s trade war isn’t just hurting soybean farmers – retaliatory tariffs are putting North Dakota edible bean producers at risk and decreasing their exports, a bad sign for our weakening farm economy,” Heitkamp said. “As the administration begins the process of negotiating a new trade agreement with the EU, they must do so in a way that addresses the concerns of agriculture and protects American workers. With farmers already looking with concern toward 2019, there’s no time to waste – we need these issues addressed quickly to protect our farmers, markets for our goods, and the rural communities that rely on a strong ag economy.” 

Heitkamp pointed to data showing a 23 percent decrease in edible bean exports to the EU this year compared to 2017. North Dakota farmers grew 35 percent of total U.S. edible bean production in 2017, and lead the nation in the production of navy and pinto beans, underscoring how vulnerable North Dakota farmers are to the downturn in agriculture caused by the trade war. Last year, the value of U.S. edible bean exports to the EU was $170.6 million.

Click here to read Heitkamp’s letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. 


Heitkamp has been proactively fighting for smart trade policies to protect North Dakota’s economy. From the beginning of this administration, she has taken action by:

  • Pressing top officials since the beginning of this administration to protect and expand markets for North Dakota goods. Heitkamp has met with the U.S. Agriculture Secretary (USDA), U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), U.S Commerce Secretary, and many other top U.S. administration officials – many of them several times – to explain that the U.S. needs smart trade policies to allow our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers to reach new markets – not tariffs, uncertainty with NAFTA, or hostility toward our top trading partners. Heitkamp recently pushed for improvements to the aid package for farmers suffering from slumping commodity prices and an uncertain future for this season’s crop. In February 2017, when she first met with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, when he was a nominee for the position, the bulk of their conversation focused on trade. Heitkamp recently pushed Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, on the impact of the administration’s trade war on the U.S. economy. Powell agreed that imposing tariffs over a sustained period time is the wrong thing to do for the economy.  
  • Engaging with North Dakota’s critical trading partners like Canada and Mexico. In frequent meetings and phone calls with the Mexican and Canadian Ambassadors to the U.S., Heitkamp has worked to protect the trade relationships that keep North Dakotas export-dependent economy thriving. She recently coordinated a meeting between North Dakota farmers and ranchers and the Mexican ambassador to help maintain their trade relationship amid the uncertainty caused by the administration’s trade war and NAFTA renegotiation.
  • Introducing legislation to help farmers and ranchers recover losses they face because of the administration’s trade war. In July, Heitkamp introduced legislation that would make Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) available – at no additional cost to the existing TAA program – to farmers and producers whose exports are hurt by retaliatory tariffs caused by the administration’s trade policies. She also introduced a bill to direct funds the government is collecting from tariffs on imported goods toward trade promotion assistance to help open new markets for farmers and ranchers hurt by the trade war.
  • Gaining input from North Dakotans. Heitkamp has regularly met with folks from North Dakota impacted by trade, including recent meetings in Washington with North Dakota growers of soybeans, corn, barley, and other commodities, as well as manufacturers and small business owners. She has held a series of meetings across the state to gain input from North Dakotans in agriculture, energy, and manufacturing. And she recently launched a web survey to gain input from North Dakotans to help inform how she can best push back on the administration’s actions on trade.
  • Raising concerns about impacts of retaliatory tariffs on the manufacturing industry. Heitkamp recently toured WCCO Belting, Inc. in Wahpeton and heard firsthand the concerns the North Dakota manufacturer has about trade wars and its ability to export its goods. Over half of WCCO’s sales are to international customers, making trade an essential part of its business model.
  • Speaking out against tariffs and uncertainty regarding NAFTA that would put the state’s economy at risk. Heitkamp has met with farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers across North Dakota to talk about the need for smart trade policies that support North Dakota. She penned op-eds in March 2017 and again in April 2018 making the case. In February, she also did an episode on her podcast, The Hotdish, about NAFTA and the importance of trade for agriculture. For the episode, she interviewed the former U.S. agricultural trade negotiator and a North Dakota barley farmer. Heitkamp recently brought a group of North Dakota agriculture leaders to the Mexican Embassy in Washington to talk about the importance of NAFTA and reinforce their commitment to a strong relationship with their customers in Mexico.
  • Pressing for analysis about the impact of the administration’s trade policies on small businesses. Heitkamp recently called on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy to analyze the impact of the administration’s tariff policies on American small businesses. Small businesses represent nearly 99 percent of all businesses in North Dakota, and support nearly 60 percent of all jobs in the state, according to SBA.



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