Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Jun 13 2018

Heitkamp, Boozman Introduce 2018 Farm Bill Amendment to Boost U.S. Ag Exports, Authorize Trade Promotion Funds to Be Used in Cuba

Bipartisan Amendment Would Help Stabilize Farm Income, Increase Export Revenue & Volume

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Boozman, both members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, introduced their bipartisan amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill to authorize U.S. trade promotion funds to be used to increase market access in Cuba for American-grown agricultural products.

Heitkamp and Boozman’s amendment would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to use its existing export market development programs to create, expand, and maintain a strong Cuban export market for U.S. agricultural producers and processors— at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. This change in USDA policy would provide some needed relief from low American commodity prices by fostering a new, reliable trade relationship, boosting agricultural export revenue, and increasing export volume for American farmers and ranchers.

“In North Dakota, we know how critical trade is to farmers and ranchers. The loosening of the embargo on Cuba was a major step in creating demand for U.S. ag imports on the island, but we can do much more to support profitable agricultural trade with Cuba,” said Hetikamp. “North Dakota farmers view Cuba as a natural market for our homegrown products like dry edible beans, peas, and lentils— and our bipartisan amendment gives USDA the ability to build reliable trade partnerships between North Dakota producers and Cuban buyers, at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Our effort would help support North Dakota’s farm families and rural communities, especially as they face uncertainty with tariffs and the renegotiation of NAFTA.”

“Agriculture is critical to the success of Arkansas’s economy,” said Boozman. “Promoting market opportunities in Cuba will open doors for Natural State agricultural producers while exposing Cubans to American values and ideals.”

Specifically, the amendment would authorize USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and USDA Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) funding to go toward trade servicing, technical assistance, and trade promotion activities in Cuba. A recent study on the economic impact of USDA export market development programs found that for every $1 spent invested in boosting export market development and assistance, U.S. agricultural export value increased by $28 over time.

Heitkamp’s amendment builds on her efforts to stress the importance of exports for North Dakota producers, expand markets for North Dakota products abroad, and prioritize the needs of North Dakota’s farmers as she works in Congress on the 2018 Farm Bill. Last week, Heitkamp facilitated a meeting between several top North Dakota agriculture leaders and the Mexican Ambassador to the United States to discuss trade and the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA.

Background

Heitkamp has long pushed to expand producers’ access to Cuba. Last year, she reintroduced her bipartisan bill to support farmers and American jobs by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba—the biggest barrier North Dakota farmers face in accessing Cuba. Heitkamp and Boozman first introduced the bill to lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba in April 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue endorsed the bill at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

Heitkamp’s work to ease export restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba is the reason the White House invited her on its historic trip to Cuba in 2016—the first presidential visit in nearly 90 years. During the three-day trip, Heitkamp met with top U.S. and Cuban leaders—including then-USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Cuban counterparts—to discuss opening agricultural trade. Her focus was on pushing for expanded North Dakota exports to Cuba.

Over the course of the trip, USDA announced it had agreed to Heitkamp’s request to allow federal checkoff programs to spend producer-generated funds to promote U.S. agricultural products in Cuba. USDA also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further normalize ties with Cuba in agriculture. This trip was Heitkamp’s second visit to Cuba as a U.S. Senator, following her first visit in February 2014.

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.
  • Supporting bipartisan legislation to stop the tariffs. Alongside U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Heitkamp led a bipartisan group of eight other senators in introducing legislation to require congressional approval of tariffs designated for national security reasons. Heitkamp and Corker’s bill would require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. In addition to introducing legislation with Corker, Heitkamp also cosponsored bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to nullify the aluminum and steel tariffs.
  • Outlining her agenda to strengthen and protect North Dakota’s agriculture and energy industries. During a meeting with USTR Robert Lighthizer earlier this year, Heitkamp laid out her top four priorities to support North Dakota workers, farmers, and businesses by enabling them to export their products abroad.
  • 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 2018making 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.
  • 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.

Exports are a critical component of North Dakota’s farming, ranching, and manufacturing economy. For example:

  • 50 percent of North Dakota’s exports to the European Union are agricultural and construction machinery.
  • North Dakota grows over half of the total U.S. production of durum wheat, and Italy is the world’s second largest importer of U.S. durum.
  • 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.
  • Of North Dakota’s exports 95 percent of its corn, 88 percent of its beef, 86 percent of its pork, and 100 percent of its poultry go to our NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, according to a recent Farm Bureau report.

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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov