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Heitkamp addresses commodity prices at Senate committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., addressed Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen over the effects of low commodity prices Thursday during the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The issue is one that has affected North Dakota significantly, where its main economic sectors of oil and agriculture have taken a hit.

Heitkamp said in her speech that an estimated 250,000 jobs had been lost worldwide in the oil and gas production industry since prices began to fall, 100,000 of which are in the U.S. She said that the challenges being faced by commodity producers in the country have been “exacerbated” by the value of the dollar, which is at a high.

“I will tell you we are deeply concerned about currency manipulation,” Heitkamp said. “We’re deeply concerned about the challenges of having to compete against other currencies and other markets.”

Heitkamp said it was the production of agricultural and energy commodities that “buoyed” the economy during the recession.

“What is the Fed doing to analyze the challenges for commodity producers and to analyze what the … increase in dollar value and potential currency manipulation means going forward to production of commodities in this country?” she asked Yellen.

Yellen said oil prices are typically depressed when the dollar value is strong. She also said this is representative of how the country compares to the rest of the world today, referencing slow economies in Europe and Japan.

“The dollar, in part, reflects disproportionate strength in the U.S. economy, and that’s a natural response to it,” she said.

Yellen said that, in terms of domestic currency manipulation, she didn’t believe the U.S. Treasury would sanction it, and that the G7 has spoken against it.

But, she said, “We do believe that countries should be able to use tools of policy like monetary policy for domestic ends.”

Andrew Wernette

Wernette came to The Dickinson Press from his home state of Michigan in April 2015 as reporter for the newspaper's energy, political, crime, courts and cops beats. Before The Press, Wernette worked at his university's newspaper as a section editor, as well as interned at a local county paper as a reporter. Outside of work, he enjoys reading, writing, cooking, taking a stroll and planning his next world travel adventure.

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