North Dakota AG Leaders Meet with White House Officials to Talk Trade and Tariffs

U.S. Commerce Secretary Ross, Congressman Cramer, and North Dakota AG Leaders at the White House.

Congressman Kevin Cramer arranged a meeting at the White House today with a delegation of North Dakota farmers and ranchers to discuss international trade and tariff issues facing them and fellow producers with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky.  

“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are hard working men and women who deserve to be treated fairly in the global market place. The delegation delivered a clear and concise message to Secretary Ross and Undersecretary Censky: they want better deals for ag producers,” said Cramer. “They expressed the understanding for using tariffs as an integral part of trade negotiations but stressed concerns about the potential negative impacts on agriculture when tariffs are used as a weapon in a trade war.”

This is the first meeting between North Dakota agriculture producers with United States’ senior administration officials to discuss trade issues. Cramer plans to host Secretary Ross in North Dakota later this year.  

“I represent 40,000 dues paying corn farmers plus 300,000 farmers across the country and we’re concerned about the short term fixes to the long term problem with trade. Trade is very important to agriculture as a whole, although we have great trading relationships with some countries, we have been mistreated by other countries. Livestock and ethanol are our largest markets for corn, but due to our ever growing corn supply in the United States, we need a robust trade policy going forward and Secretary Ross shared that he understands the need and will continue working on these policies,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the Corn Board of the National Corn Growers Association. Kevin, his wife Betty, and their two sons grow corn and soybeans near Arthur, North Dakota 

In addition to discussing tariffs, the group stressed the need to quickly finish the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) re-negotiations.   

“I have farmed and ranched the majority of my life under NAFTA. I have been coming to D.C. for the last 15 years to lobby. It is a breath of fresh air this administration is finally redoing our trade agreements, all unfair to America. The pain I feel is short term. But, the long term gains will provide real prosperity to our farmers, ranchers and rural America,” said Kenny Graner, President of the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA). He and his wife ranch near Huff, North Dakota.

 “The meeting today was designed for our nation’s highest trade negotiators to hear directly from North Dakota’s producers without the filter of media and political grandstanding.  President Trump’s negotiating position would be strengthened if elected officials and trade group leaders spoke with a more unified voice,” said Cramer. 

List of Participants from North Dakota

Chad Weckerly – Hurdsfield, N.D.

Chad Weckerly has a diversified farming operation located in Hurdsfield, North Dakota. Chad and family have been farming for generations and they grow a variety of crops including wheat, corn, and soybeans.  

Julie Ellingson – St. Anthony, N.D.

Julie Ellingson grew up near St. Anthony, North Dakota, where she continues to operate a registered Angus ranch. In addition to cattle, the Ellingsons raise some crops and hay for their cattle. Julie works as the Executive Vice President of the North Dakota’s Stockmen’s Association, an 88-year-old beef cattle trade organization, which is headquartered in Bismarck.

Barry Vculek – Oakes, N.D.

Barry Vculek is the owner and sales manager of Four Star Agriculture in Oakes, North Dakota. This fourth generation family farming operation raises and packages onions for resale throughout the United States. They also grow corn and soybeans in southeastern North Dakota.

Senator Terry Wanzek – Jamestown, N.D.

Senator Terry Wanzek is a farmer, rancher, and businessman. He is a member of the North Dakota State Senate from the 29th District, serving since 2007.

Senator Tom Campbell – Grafton, N.D.

Senator Tom Campbell is a farmer, businessman, and co-founder of Campbell farms. The Campbell family of companies is a fully integrated year-round supplier of fresh table stock, and certified seed potatoes. He is a member of North Dakota State Senate from the 19th District, serving since 2013.

Kenny Graner – Menoken, N.D.

Kenny Graner is the former president of the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota.  He and his wife ranch near Menoken, N.D. 

Kevin Skunes – Arthur, N.D.

Kevin Skunes serves as the president of the Corn Board of the National Corn Growers Association. Kevin, his wife Betty, and their two sons grow corn and soybeans near Arthur, N.D. 

Levi Otis – Harwood, N.D.

Levi Otis is fifth generation North Dakotan.  He works for Ellingson Companies, an agribusiness servicing farmers in the United States and Canada.  He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Land Association of North Dakota.