Sen. Heitkamp Issues Statement on USDA Data on Soybean Exports

By Targeted News Service

The office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, issued the following statement after a Department of Agriculture data show a nearly 96 percent drop in the pace of U.S. soybean exports to China in 2018, which began in Sept. 1:

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About 70 percent of North Dakota’s soybeans have typically been exported to Asia, primarily China, but the administration’s trade war has crippled this important market for North Dakota farmers.

“North Dakota farmers are not at fault for China’s unfair trade practices, yet they’re being asked to bear the brunt of the pain caused by the administration’s trade war. That’s not fair to our farmers or to our rural communities who rely on agriculture to keep them strong.

“North Dakota soybean farmers have all but been cut off from the Chinese soybean market, the outcome farmers have been warning about for months. It’s a shame the administration didn’t listen to North Dakota farmers, who know their business and the importance of exports far better than anyone in Washington. From day one, I’ve been echoing the concerns I’m hearing from farmers and pushing for smart trade policies that hold China accountable while preserving markets for North Dakota goods. That’s the responsible approach the administration should take to protect our farmers, workers, and rural economy.”

At this time last year, the U.S. had exported 4.66 million metric tons of soybeans to China since September 1, according to USDA. This marketing year, a mere 201,700 metric tons of U.S. soybeans have been exported to China, a nearly 96 percent drop – illustrating the damaging impact that the administration’s trade war is already having on North Dakota agriculture.

While a small amount of U.S. soybeans were exported to China last week, the total – 134,700 metric tons – paled in comparison to the same week last year, when 1.37 million metric tons were exported, according to USDA data.

The steep decline of the Chinese market for U.S. soybeans has contributed to a decline of global U.S. soybean exports. While some nations are buying more U.S. soybeans than in previous years, it’s not enough to make up for the market share lost in China. North Dakota’s infrastructure is best positioned to export beans to China, making it harder and more costly for North Dakota farmers to sell their soybeans to other parts of the world.

The chart below shows the dramatic decline of the Chinese market for U.S. soybeans this year:

View chart at

As North Dakota farmers struggle to find a market for this year’s crop, reports show that the administration’s trade war is continuing to worsen the outlook for North Dakota soybean farmers. As CNBC recently reported, farmers are having trouble finding a place for this year’s crop, leaving the beans occupying grain elevators and bins. Elevators are holding 68 percent more of the previous season’s crop than at this time last year, limiting space available to store the 2018 crop.

Soybeans are particularly hard to store, especially if grain bins are not an option for a farmer. NDSU recently released resources and helpful tips on soybean storage for farmers tackling soybean storage for the first time.

Compounding the loss of the Chinese market, the recent snowstorm in eastern North Dakota has set harvest back, delaying possible payments to farmers seeking assistance through the administration’s trade mitigation program. Heitkamp has repeatedly pushed the administration to improve the assistance package to make it more equitable for North Dakota farmers, and last week reiterated her request to allow farmers to apply for assistance before their crops come off the field due to the added hardship caused by the snowstorm, which dumped up to 19 inches in some areas.

According to a North Dakota State University professor’s analysis reported in Agweek, without the trade war with China, soybean prices would be near $13 instead of the current $7 per bushel.

The trade war’s impact could have negative consequences on the ag economy for up to five years, according to William Wilson with NDSU. Soybeans are an important part of North Dakota’s ag economy. For example:

– 71 percent of North Dakota Soybeans are Exported to Asia, Primarily China

– Total value of North Dakota’s 2017 Crop: $2.1 billion

– North Dakota is ranked fourth in the nation for the number of soybean acres planted this season according to a September USDA Crop Production Report

– Cass County was the top soybean producing county in the United States last year, according to the North Dakota Soybean Council


Heitkamp has been proactively fighting for smart trade policies to protect North Dakota’s economy. From the beginning of the NAFTA renegotiation, she has pushed for a quick resolution to the talks in a way that strengthens U.S. agriculture and preserves market access to North Dakota’s top two trading partners. 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 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.

– Supporting bipartisan legislation to stop tariffs. Heitkamp joined U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) leading a bipartisan group of eight other senators in introducing legislation to require congressional approval of tariffs designated for national security reasons. Heitkamp also cosponsored bipartisan legislation introduced by Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona to nullify the aluminum and steel tariffs.

– 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 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.

– Outlining her agenda to strengthen and protect North Dakota’s economy. 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, and recently spoke out against the administration’s escalating trade war with China, which also threatens North Dakota’s main industries – energy, agriculture, and manufacturing.

– 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.

This article provided by NewsEdge.