MINOT, ND — In 2018, during one of the most high-profile U.S. Senate campaigns in the country, soy unexpectedly took center stage.
Kevin Cramer, then a congressman, challenged incumbent senator Heidi Heitkamp. Donald Trump’s presidency, particularly his trade policy with China, was casting a shadow over the race, and that’s where soybeans came in.
As part of the Chinese regime’s tit for tat game with the Trump administration, orders for soybeans have stopped coming in. China, historically, buys a lot of soybeans, and North Dakota grows a lot.
Heitkamp, facing re-election in a pro-Trump state as a member of an anti-Trump political party, saw soybean farmers’ pain as an opportunity. A corner issue she could use to convince a very Trumpy electorate to vote for a Democrat.
It didn’t work out so well – Heitkamp would go on to drop 11 percentage points – but while the soy issue wasn’t enough to save the incumbent from this race, it was, and is, a very reality whose roots have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fraying of geopolitical relations.