Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Jul 11 2018

Heitkamp Meets with ND Soybean Growers, Discusses Growing Threat of Trade War

North Dakota is Ranked 4th in the Nation for the Number of Soybean Acres Planted this Season

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today met with members of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association to discuss the trade war’s impact on North Dakota farmers, as well as progress on the Farm Bill and other efforts to boost the state’s agriculture industry.

The meeting comes as the administration is escalating its trade war with China. Soybean prices today hit a 10-year low on the news that the administration is planning to impose tariffs on $200 billion of additional Chinese goods, likely sparking retaliatory measures against U.S. goods and putting this year’s soybean crop at risk as China cancels orders. North Dakota farmers export 71 percent of their soybeans to Asia, primarily to China.

“Soybeans are a bright spot for North Dakota farmers, but the value of their crop this year and beyond is at risk because of an unnecessary trade war with their largest customer,” Heitkamp said. “Soybean farmers don’t deserve to be collateral damage in this misguided trade war, and I have yet to hear from the administration how it plans to support farmers whose livelihoods are at risk from this damaging policy. China’s unfair trade practices can and must be addressed through aggressive trade enforcement, but tariffs are the opposite of smart and strategic – they’re an unsophisticated weapon that put North Dakota agriculture in the crosshairs. Meeting with soybean farmers today, it’s clear that we need to put an end to this trade war fast – or our rural economy will be put at even greater risk.” 

“North Dakota soybean growers produce some of the best soybeans on earth, but in order to be successful, we need access to critical markets like China where soybeans are in high demand and North Dakota has a geographical advantage to ship them there,” said Joe Ericson, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota and president of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association. “The administration’s trade war with China threatens our ability to export, and we’ve already seen negative impacts in the way of cancelled orders and slumping prices. Our farmers are caught right in the middle, and that isn’t fair. We appreciate Senator Heitkamp’s efforts to resolve this dispute in a way that protects North Dakota farmers.”

Yesterday, Heitkamp met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to express the frustration and concerns she’s hearing from North Dakota agricultural producers and other industry leaders about the administration's trade policies. 

Last week, the administration imposed tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods as Heitkamp held meetings in Mandan, Minot, Carrington, and Wahpeton to talk about trade and the Farm Bill. China immediately imposed $34 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other agricultural products, targeting nearly all of North Dakota’s agricultural exports to the country as well as North Dakota’s energy exports.

The trade war threatens over $60 million in North Dakota exports, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which estimates that over 111,000 jobs in North Dakota are supported by trade. Click here to read the Chamber’s report on North Dakota.

Heitkamp has repeatedly pushed to meet with Lighthizer and other top administration officials to advocate for smart trade policies that protect and open markets for North Dakota producers – not a trade war that threatens the state’s rural economy. At a recent meeting with President Trump at the White House, Heitkamp pushed for an end to the escalation of the trade war that is hurting North Dakota’s economy.   

Background:

Heitkamp has continued to press for smart trade policies that support North Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers 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, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., 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. 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.
  • Raising concerns about impacts of retaliatory tariffs on industries vital to North Dakota’s economy like agriculture and manufacturing. 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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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov