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WASHINGTON – At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, urged leaders in the U.S. Navy to ensure America’s naval fleet remains sufficient for protecting agricultural exporters’ access to foreign markets. His questions, directed at Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, come in light of China’s plans to increase its naval presence to 460 ships by 2030.

“In 2020, U.S. agricultural exports to the Pacific included $11.7 billion to Japan, $7.7 billion to South Korea, $3.4 billion to Vietnam, $3.3 billion to Taiwan, $3.2 billion to the Philippines, $2.8 billion to Indonesia, and on and on it goes. There’s a lot of hungry people out in the Pacific who like what we grow in places like North Dakota and throughout our country,” said Senator Cramer. “In this 2030 scenario, could we guarantee we’d have shipping access to all or any of these important trading partners?”

“That’s the crux of our investment strategy to make sure that we can keep the Navy [Fourth Fleet] relevant,” replied Admiral Gilday. “At any given day, we’ve got about a third of the Navy at sea. We think that’s what we need, in not only training but also deployed, to have that presence to maintain those open sea lanes and keep that trade flowing. We saw what happened in the Suez recently. That should be a lesson for all of us. It cost us $9 billion a day. It doesn’t take much to upset global trade through those key choke points.”

Senator Cramer concluded by reiterating his concerns about the expected growth in China’s naval fleet.

“When you look at the volume and the assets that [China has], the shipyards they have – both commercial and naval – obviously it can be a little bit overwhelming,” said Senator Cramer. 

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