Heitkamp urges more trade aid as Trump appears at Cramer fundraiser
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on Friday urged the Trump administration to increase the package of aid to farmers hurt by tariffs, just as President Donald Trump appeared in Fargo, N.D., at a fundraiser for Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who is running against Heitkamp in the November election.
In a news release, Heitkamp noted that Trump had threatened China with more tariffs and said that she had written Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that the current package of aid is inadequate for both soybean and corn farmers and had provided nothing for canola producers.
“Today’s threat to escalate the trade war is a threat to North Dakota farmers. I’ve long pushed to hold China accountable for its trade violations, but we can’t do it on the backs of hardworking North Dakotans,” Heitkamp said.
“The administration acknowledged the damaging impact of its trade war and developed a package to provide some aid to our hurting farmers and ranchers, but more must be done to alleviate the pain North Dakota agriculture is feeling, which is what I pressed Secretary Perdue about today.
“Secretary Perdue has acknowledged that this aid won’t make farmers whole. In many cases, it won’t even come close. As farmers take to the field to harvest this year’s crop, many are worried about being able to make their operating loans, let alone support themselves and their families.
“North Dakota’s farmers don’t deserve to be collateral damage in this trade war, and the administration must make every effort to alleviate the pain and quickly resolve the trade disputes that are putting livelihoods at stake,” Heitkamp said.
She stressed the importance of adequately staffing local Farm Service Agency offices, which are tasked with processing applications for aid.
Heitkamp also said she is hearing from North Dakota farmers that banks are becoming increasingly cautious about issuing operating loans for the 2019 growing season. She urged Perdue to consider increasing loan rates and making additional credit opportunities available to ensure farmers and ranchers are able to make it to next year’s growing season and keep their operations running.
She also noted that she has introduced legislation to direct funds collected by the Treasury Department from tariffs on imported goods toward trade promotion programs that help U.S. farmers and ranchers, including the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development. The government has already collected over $3.5 billion from tariffs, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Heitkamp said.
At the fundraiser in Fargo, Trump reacted to former President Barack Obama’s opening congressional campaign speech in Illinois, Fox News reported.