Heitkamp: Missed NAFTA Deadline Creates Harmful Uncertainty for ND Ag Producers

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today released the following statement on the administration missing the May 17 deadline outlined by House Speaker Paul Ryan to present a new NAFTA deal in order to get it passed before the end of this year.  

“With this deadline missed, the only thing that seems certain is that uncertainty will continue to harm our farmers and ranchers for the foreseeable future,” Heitkamp said. “We need smart trade policies that preserve markets for North Dakota goods and help our producers strengthen their trading relationships and find new customers – but the uncertainty regarding the future of NAFTA has customers in our two biggest export markets wondering if it’s smart to do business with American agriculture producers. It’s unfortunate that an agreement was not reached before this deadline – leaving farmers, ranchers, and businesses in limbo for several more months. We must push for trade policies that protect North Dakota’s economy and jobs, and that give them the certainty they need and deserve.”

Last week, Heitkamp spoke at a panel discussion on the importance of NAFTA to North Dakota agriculture producers and heard from a North Dakota farmer who is already feeling the impact of uncertainty created by the prolonged renegotiation. She then toured Wahpeton manufacturer WCCO Belting, Inc., to learn about the importance of trade to the business and the company’s ability to support jobs in North Dakota – and how tariffs and withdrawing from NAFTA would hurt their ability to compete.

North Dakota is the ninth largest agriculture exporting state in the country, with $5.3 billion in commodities exported in 2017 —and Canada and Mexico are the state’s two biggest foreign markets. For example, 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 Canada and Mexico, according to a recent Farm Bureau report.

Heitkamp has long worked to expand and protect market access for North Dakota farmers and ranchers. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Heitkamp is committed to protecting crucial export promotion programs in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Click here to read Heitkamp’s op-ed on why smart trade policies are needed to support North Dakota farmers and ranchers.

Heitkamp has been fighting to protect and expand markets for North Dakota goods, pushing the administration to back off damaging threats to withdraw from NAFTA and speaking out against tariffs that would put the state’s economy at risk. She recently reiterated those concerns in a conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as she pressed him to protect North Dakota’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors, and has requested an analysis on the economic impact of proposed tariffs on small businesses like family farms from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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.

Exports are a critical component of North Dakota’s farming, ranching, and manufacturing 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, according to the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association. On the day the proposed Chinese tariffs were announced, there was a 40 cent drop in price, which would equate to a $99.4 million dollar loss to ND farmers. Or a loss of $16.60 per acre.

·         North Dakota exports 95 percent of its corn, 88 percent of its beef, 86 percent of its pork, and 100 percent of its poultry to our NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico, according to a recent Farm Bureau report.

·         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.

·         50 percent of North Dakota’s exports to the European Union are agricultural and construction.