The trade war, an eventual Farm Bill and the future of rural healthcare continue to be on the minds of North Dakotans.
Incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., stressed their involvement in reaching solutions. Cramer is challenging Heitkamp for a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. Their race will be determined in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Feeling the urgency
“It’s very unlikely we’re going to get a new Farm Bill prior to mid-November,” Heitkamp said. “There are some pieces that will be negotiated before then.”
Cramer agreed, saying he’s hopeful the new bill will come after Election Day but before Dec. 31. Both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives hoped to merge their draft Farm Bills into one that could have Congressional approval.
While the most recent bill had a Sept. 30 expiration date, Cramer said the situation is not as dire as it sounds.
“About 98 percent of what’s covered under the bill continues. That includes the programs that are considered the safety net. They’ll continue through the crop season,” he continued.
Cramer and Heitkamp are at opposite ends regarding a proposal that would benefit cotton producers in West Texas.
For her, it’s a matter of taking away resources from North Dakota farmland. He countered by saying the affected North Dakota land is not currently or has recently grown crops. Cramer also discussed the potential of furthering an alliance of farming states.
“The Farm Bill is hardly ever a partisan document, but it is frequently a regional document,” Heitkamp said.
Both candidates insisted on the importance of moving forward with a new Farm Bill. Heitkamp contrasted the Senate’s bipartisan, 86-11 vote for its bill with the House bill, which “barely passed.”
“There’s been discussion about an extension of the current (national) Farm Bill,” Cramer noted. “I could have supported that, but my thoughts are, ‘Let’s keep the pressure on.’ An extension sort of removes the urgency of the moment. We need to feel that urgency.”
‘We’re not going to roll over.’
Urgency is being felt throughout North Dakota, Heitkamp said. It’s coming from the crop producers.
“Our soybean farmers are facing a world of hurt,” she continued. “At this time in October, they would typically be in the bin or on their way to the Pacific Northwest.”
Since July, the world has been responding to the United States and China placing tariffs on the goods they trade. Cramer expressed support for recent activity including soybean deals with the European Union and the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We are sending a strong signal to China that we’re not going to roll over,” he said. “It does seem that China is starting to feel the pinch. Their stock market is down over 35 percent, their currency is becoming almost weak. It’s impacting their standard of living and quality of life.”
Soybean producers are diversifying their markets, Cramer continued. He acknowledged the activity isn’t currently as lucrative as Chinese trade.
It’s not enough, Heitkamp said.
“I don’t think we should be asking our farmers to bear the brunt of this trade war,” she continued. “Congressman Cramer is supporting the president’s tariffs which are resulting in soybean producers losing their market. He refuses to criticize anything involving this administration. That’s not representing North Dakota.”
Votes and healthcare
North Dakota is one of several states in “Texas vs. U.S.,” a lawsuit over whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.
“I think it’s entirely appropriate that the constitutional question be raised and settled by the courts,” Cramer said. “Regardless of how well-meaning (the ACA) is, if it’s deemed to be constitutional, it’s better to know sooner than later.”
Heitkamp is hopeful the lawsuit will be dismissed. Throughout her campaign, she’s drawn a link between upholding the ACA and the continued strength of North Dakota healthcare.
Republicans, however, have said the Affordable Care Act is providing ineffective support. Cramer, who said it was time to replace the act with something providing more flexibility for states, said he wouldn’t shy away from voting against it whether symbolically or officially.
“I don’t think we should be making symbolic votes on healthcare,” Heitkamp said.
Cramer and Heitkamp are scheduled for two debates this month. The first is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 in Bismarck.
The Bismarck debate is sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association, the Fargo Forum reported. It will be be livestreamed on Forum Communications Co. websites and broadcast live on the company’s digital XTRA TV channels.
Cramer and Heitkamp will have a second debate Friday, Oct. 26 in Fargo. It’s sponsored by the North Dakota Broadcasters Association.
Elsewhere, North Dakota state Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-District 36, is challenging former state Sen. Mac Schneider, D-District 42, and independent Charles Tuttle. First time U.S. Congressional candidates, each is running to succeed Cramer for a two-year term in the House.
Both Senate candidates say they’re ready for the debates.
“I’ve been ready to debate him for the past five months,” Heitkamp said.
Cramer spoke briefly about the importance of voting.
“We have the incredible privilege of getting to select our own leadership,” he said.
With midterm elections in less than 20 days, look to Daily News Media for updated coverage of North Dakota and Minnesota’s campaigns, candidates and items under consideration.