Heitkamp Pushes Perdue on Trade, USDA Budget, Prioritizing Wetland Determinations at U.S. Senate Confirmation Hearing
March 23, 2017
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today pushed former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, the administration's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to be a strong voice for agricultural trade during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. Heitkamp questioned Perdue about the drastic 21 percent USDA budget cuts proposed by the administration as well.
At today's hearing Perdue also endorsed Heitkamp's bipartisan bill with Republican Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas to expand U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba and create American jobs by lifting financing restrictions on exports—a bill Heitkamp pressed Perdue on when they met earlier this year.
"North Dakota farmers and ranchers can't make a living without opportunities to sell their top-notch products overseas," said Heitkamp. "But uncertainty about trade in markets like Mexico has already cost North Dakota valuable business. It's my hope that, if confirmed, Governor Perdue can be a strong voice for agricultural exports in the president's cabinet and make sure they have a seat at the table. Another concern I have is the budget the administration released last week, which would slash USDA funding by 21 percent. Cuts like that show little understanding for the vital work USDA does to support farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. I was able to get Governor Perdue to commit to cut down on the wetland determination backlog, fight foreign trade barriers, and protect the Sugar Program, and I'll hold him to his word if he's confirmed."
As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Heitkamp has called for policies that expand the export markets North Dakota producers rely on to make ends meet—including when she met with Perdue one-on-one earlier this year. North Dakota sells $4.1 billion dollars in agricultural products overseas each year, according to USDA, and those exports alone support 27,000 good-paying jobs in North Dakota.
“It’s my hope that, if confirmed, Gov. Perdue can be a strong voice for agricultural exports in the president’s cabinet and make sure they have a seat at the table. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
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Heitkamp pushed Perdue about the need for USDA to provide timely wetland determinations for North Dakota farmers, and to guarantee that conservation compliance requirements don't hurt producers—as Heitkamp has long pushed for.
Heitkamp further pressed Perdue on the need to make sure American producers are treated fairly in other markets, bringing up her work to stop Canadian elevators from giving North Dakota grain growers unfair prices for their crops. Last year, Heitkamp called on the former U.S. Trade Representative to protect North Dakota grain growers from unfair treatment after a report she requested showed that Canada segregates North Dakota grain and offers unfair prices to U.S. producers at Canadian elevators.
In her one-on-one meeting with Perdue earlier this year and during today's hearing, Heitkamp also pressed Perdue on the importance of working with Congress to secure a strong Farm Bill in 2018. She underscored how critical it is for a Secretary of Agriculture to work with Congress after a bill is passed to implement it in a way that works for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in North Dakota and across the country.
Heitkamp helped write, negotiate, and pass the 2014 Farm Bill and has worked to implement and protect the Farm Bill for producers across North Dakota.
In August 2016, Heitkamp began laying the groundwork for a robust 2018 Farm Bill with a two-day tour across North Dakota, meeting with farmers, ranchers, researchers, and other agriculture leaders in the field to get their feedback ahead of the upcoming Farm Bill negotiations.