“Your checkoff dollars at work!”

Watching North Dakota State University Bison football excellence on TV over years of repeat championships, dedicated fans across the state learned how North Dakota’s soybean farmers created marketing excellence. The soybean council’s ads with that memorable catchphrase, the in-game checkoff quizzes and over a decade’s worth of news stories about the council’s trade missions to and from China provided proof-of-performance for those checkoff dollar claims.

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That was before President Trump's feckless trade war destroyed North Dakota’s multi-billion dollar Chinese soybean market. And decimated it into the foreseeable future: China now reportedly wants to stop buying American soybeans entirely and is actively encouraging farmers to reduce reliance on imported soybean protein used in livestock feeds.

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No wonder — according to John Bolton revelations that Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer refused to hear during Trump’s impeachment — Trump begged China’s President Xi to help his campaign: “Make sure I win... Buy a lot of soybeans and wheat and make sure we win.” But now with escalating diplomatic tit-for-tats and Trump’s desire to shift blame to China for his pathetic and deadly coronavirus response, does anyone really think his trade war will end or China will buy North Dakota soybeans any time soon?

Reality check: previous ND senators of both parties would have railed endlessly against so-called “easy to win” trade wars. And the notion that China pays the tariffs? Their unanimous rebuttal would be: “consumers pay the tariffs” through passed-on price increases amounting to taxes.

Hoeven and Cramer responses? Crickets.

Not that they aren’t painfully aware of those facts. But the more-painful threat of presidential and party disapproval is overarching.

They knew. They said nothing. They betrayed North Dakota farmers.

Sure, staff put out perfunctory disingenuous cover-your-backside statements, but after that, anything? Predecessors would have been shouting betrayal from the rooftops at every chance, at every town-hall meeting and every media availability.

So with bean markets crushed, let’s resort to Soviet-style market-planning subsidies! Quoting a Trump tweet: “I got $Billions out of China, and gave much of it to our targeted farmers!” (Reminder: American consumers pay the $Billions)

Supposed small-government conservatives now argue for big-government budget-busting subsidies in a state where free-market principles and values led to the establishment of independent farmer-supporting services: the state bank and state mill. Did Hoeven and Cramer really think this was in our state’s or nation’s best interests?

They knew. But they couldn’t say anything since they hadn’t spoken up before. They further betrayed North Dakota farmers.

The club to which all U.S. senators belong is the most connected collection of persons on the planet. Even if they don’t all receive the classified briefings, they hear retelling of the details and know truths beyond what they’ll admit. That’s their job. We want them and need them to know.

But when Joe Biden warned in January we were unprepared for a possible Coronavirus pandemic, Hoeven and Cramer were mum. They had the same information, if not better, and were silent. And stayed silent for six months now. Heaven forbid a possible “mean tweet” by getting ahead of a president in denial mode. Best to lay low and hope the constituents don’t notice.

Our senators knew. They said nothing. They betrayed the health security of North Dakota citizens.

Fifty thousand. One hundred thousand. We're nearing 150,000 dead. Still no honest acknowledgement of our failed federal response from our failing state leadership in Washington. And no Trump administration plan to use the full measure of America’s might to finally end this scourge.

Our senators’ thralldom to the MAGA cult will not be ballot-tested this year and they very well may survive future reelection challenges.

But history will know what we know: Hoeven and Cramer failed to meet existential challenges facing North Dakota farmers. Hoeven and Cramer failed to meet existential threats to the health of all North Dakotans. Their silence will forever be their shame.