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In Minnesota, Ways & Means Committee Hears About the Importance of New Agriculture Export Markets, Domestic Critical Mineral Mining, and Enforcement of America’s Trade Agreements

July 13, 2023

KIMBALL, MN – In a cattle auction barn on a family farm in Kimball, Minnesota, farmers shared their frustration that the Biden Administration is not doing enough to open new export markets for American agriculture, while sharing stories of how they suffer when America’s trading partners do not honor their trade commitments. Because farmers are directly impacted by unfair trade practices, the witnesses called on Congress to ensure trade agreements are more than just handshakes and are actually enforced.


The Biden Administration’s current approach is the exact opposite – negotiating fake trade deals with no enforcement, no market access for American agriculture, keeping America dependent on China for critical mineral supply chains, and sending billions in taxpayer dollars overseas. America could mine and refine critical minerals at home, but the Biden Administration has consistently blocked domestic critical mineral production, including in Minnesota’s deposit-rich Iron Range.


The hearing was held at Schiefelbein Farms, an angus, feedstock, and grain operation in Kimball. Witnesses included a cattle farmer, dairy farmer, corn farmer, soybean farmer, and former Minnesota state legislator who is an expert on Minnesota’s critical mineral resources.


Across the World, “What’s For Dinner” Isn’t American Beef (Or Other American Ag Products)


American agriculture products face artificial trade barriers across the world that block American farmers and ranchers from being able to fairly compete in foreign markets. Today, there are barriers to U.S. beef, pork, and poultry from the United Kingdom and Asian nations, just to name a few. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) asked Minnesota cattle rancher Don Schfeilbein the difference that having more market access would make for U.S. farmers and global customers – including the food for dinner.

Chairman Smith: “As a rancher, can you share your perspective on why fair treatment and export markets is so important to ranchers, in particular in markets like the United Kingdom and Asia where the Administration is currently negotiating, but failing to seek more market access for U.S. exports in these areas? Can you share some examples of the barriers that we must address in order to obtain fair treatment in this region?”


Mr. Schfielbein: “…As you can imagine, when you have the greatest product in the world, you want to have access to everywhere, plain and simple. Fair trade is good when you have the best product. And that’s what we want. We want to have complete open access to every country because of that. It was amazing. I wished I would have recorded my discussions with the U.K. government when I was over there last year. They pleaded, and maybe more accurately, begged our government to engage in trade. They said we want to buy American beef. And in fact, I’ll build on that, when we had dinner that night on the menu were all the various varieties of beef. They had New Zealand beef and American beef. And we said you know what, we’re going to sample each one of those. See if we really are the best, right? What do you think happened when we tried to order the American beef? Not available. Quota was hit. Product not available. Lost opportunity for a market. That’s where we need our government engaged. That’s where we need our government involved. What they tend to do…is put these artificial barriers in there and use things like scientific words to describe why they don’t want their product. They simply are a barrier to entry for our product.”


Minnesota Cattle Farmer to USTR: Don’t Be M.I.A. on Trade

The Biden Administration continues to pursue trade “agreements” that fail to recognize Congress’s constitutional role in trade policy and lack enforcement mechanisms to hold our trading partners accountable. Don Schiefelbein, a cattle producer from Kimball, MN, told Ways and Means Committee members about the need for USTR to work with Congress and negotiate trade deals that expand access to new markets for American farmers.

Rep. Fischbach: “You mentioned a little bit about some of your trips abroad that you were talking about, and I was just wondering, you know, if you can speak to the importance of these missions. You touched on them just a little bit, and what it means with a comparatively inactive USTR.”


Mr. Schiefelbein: “…Where I do need your help is the constitutional requirement to open trade agreements for us. And if you look at when we engage the United States, great things happen. When we disengage, lost opportunities abound, and I just encourage you all, don’t be M.I.A.; get involved; figure out how we can engage U.S. agriculture, sell the best products in the world to the world, and great things will come. That’s my plea to you.”


America’s Trade Partners Breaking Their Commitments Can Be Life and Death for Family Farms

Mexico’s unscientific ban on corn and Canada’s restrictions on American dairy demonstrate the urgent need for the United States to fully utilize enforcement mechanisms in our trade agreements. In response to Rep. Adrian Smith (NE-03), Minnesota corn farmer Carolyn Olson shared the facts of how farmers are currently being hurt by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) not being enforced.


Rep. Smith (NE): “…If you could elaborate why enforcement tools are so critical to dairy and corn producers, respectively. And then if you can elaborate on the impact of what could happen to dairy and corn producers if we don’t really address this issue with Mexico…”


Ms. Olson: “Thank you. For us, and for the Farm Bureau, and for all of my farmers and friends in our neighborhood, if we lose the market with Mexico because they decided that they didn’t want to take this type of corn, it would be devastating. Corn prices are sliding, as Mr. Wertish had indicated earlier. Corn prices are sliding. We were profitable last year. In 2021…each farmer in southern Minnesota had an impact of over a million dollars in the local economy…When we lose our markets, when the prices go down because then we have too much domestic supply, that means farmers have trouble making ends meet. They will not be able to make enough of a profit to survive to farm another year.”


Critical Mineral Expert: Biden Administration Helping Communist China’s Military Ambitions

Several states, including Minnesota, have rich deposits of critical minerals needed to make everything from cars to computers. The Biden Administration’s decision to cancel federal leases for critical mineral mines in Minnesota’s Iron Range will only increase America’s dependence on China for critical goods. Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-03) asked Tom Bakk, the former state senate leader and longtime advocate for the canceled mine, how this would affect America’s strength against China.

Rep. Ferguson: “You’ve touched on a couple of things. And in your testimony, you said that the policies that the Administration is pursuing – shutting off mining in Minnesota yet opening up agreements with other countries for rare Earth minerals. It doesn’t make sense. Talk to me a little bit more about that, because it seems to me that we are making ourselves less competitive with the policies that we have in place right now.”


Mr. Bakk: “…The problem we’re creating, it’s one of more than being not competitive. It’s one of being incredibly vulnerable. I mean, we only have one very small nickel mine in this whole country. And it’s in Michigan. It’s the eagle mine in Michigan. Other than that, we produced none, and little cobalt, little lithium, these metals that are going to be in tremendous demand. The problem is we leave ourselves incredibly vulnerable. And if I’m China sitting right now, I’m thinking we’re going to take Taiwan. Guess what? They could put a strategy together and take it back. United. And there’s not much we could do, because all they’d have to do is threaten to cut off our critical metals, and it would bring us to our knees.”


Minnesota Dairy Farmer: “Without Enforcement, These Agreements Would End Up Hurting Us More Than Helping Us”

Trade agreements are only helpful if the rules and terms are enforced. As dairy farmers like Brad Vold knows, trading partners not abiding by their obligations often means farmers lose out on being able to sell their products at all.

Mr. Vold: “Well, simply put, without enforcement, these agreements would end up hurting us more than helping us…And one thing people need to understand from a farmer or a dairy farmers perspective, living in a small rural community, is the fact that when a situation like this happens, it directly affects not only farm families, who are given literally just days to find a home for their milk that they were having processed locally. The dairy industry right now, as we are all maybe aware of, is in an over surplus situation. You do not just get on the phone and make a phone call to another dairy processing facility to have your milk picked up. So there’s some very serious consequences when a situation like this takes place.”