Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is the prime sponsor of HR 6150, the Promoting Rural Exports Act of 2018. He introduced the bill to help rural firms access international markets and increase exports. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is a co-sponsor. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the companion bill in the US Senate. This rural export bill did not receive the media attention it deserved, thus this letter.
Trade and tariffs are big issues in this campaign as President Trump corrects bad trade deals to make trade fair, free and reciprocal. Trump's team is removing the barriers to sending our products into international markets. Trump is making significant progress on renegotiating trade agreements like NAFTA, but negotiations are ongoing. Some uncertainty remains, and new international customers may be needed. Thus the importance of this bill.
Cramer's bill calls for the U.S. Commerce Department to establish a rural export center in a rural area to help rural businesses nationwide secure new customers in new countries so they can export their products to new international markets. The bill gives preference to a headquarters location that is not in a large metropolitan area with no sense of rural companies. Fargo fits that description.
It is good to remember that 98 percent of U.S. exporting firms are small businesses like farmers and rural manufacturers. They rely on trade and distant markets.
Too often rural businesses have difficulty in accessing good information, services and tools to help them export. Farmers or rural manufacturers shouldn't be denied export opportunities because they have a rural zip code.
The concept has been tested by the U.S. Commercial Service office in Fargo. More than 50 companies in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota have benefited from rural market intelligence reports. About 30 college students have secured jobs in international trade from these internships, thus becoming a great source for expertise and talent. Rural companies are providing enthusiastic support to take this program national.
Kudos to Cramer for finding a way to help our rural exporters find new markets in new countries.
Gjovig is CEO emeritus of the Center for Innovation Foundation and serves as vice chairman of the Dakota Export Council.