U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said Monday the situation is so dire for the U.S. iron ore and steel industries that the time has come to ban steel imports to protect American jobs.

Nolan on Monday said he will introduce a bill in Congress to ban steel imports into the U.S. for five years - an effort to boost production of U.S.-made steel and boost demand for Minnesota iron ore, the main ingredient in steel.

The bill could be formally drafted on Nov. 30 when Congress returns to Washington after the Thanksgiving break. But it faces an uphill battle in Washington, where protectionist measures have often failed.

Nolan, D-Crosby, said the current crisis - with steel production dwindling in the U.S. and now seven of Minnesota's 11 major mining operations closed or about to close - is caused by a flood of imported steel, much of it from Asia, that is undercutting domestic steel and stealing away business. That reduction in domestic steel has vastly reduced the need for MInnesota's taconite iron ore, leading to the plant closures and the worst downturn on the Iron Range in 30 years.

Steel imports now account for more than one-third of all steel being used in the U.S., Nolan said, the highest level on record. American steel mill production has dropped to just 70 percent of capacity and may dip lower.

Much of the imported steel, Nolan and others contend, is being sold below-cost thanks to foreign government subsidies. That’s against international trade laws, but it’s often hard to prove and harder to enforce, taking months or even years for trade cases to reach conclusions.

“Once and for all, it’s time for this Congress and this administration to stand up for American workers and American jobs - jobs being destroyed and stolen due to illegal steel dumping by China, India and other Southeast Asian nations,” Nolan said in a statement Monday. “My bill would place an immediate moratorium on imports of foreign steel for five years, so our domestic industry will have time to return to 100 percent of production capacity - and so thousands of American workers who have lost their jobs in our mining, iron ore and steel industries can return to work as quickly as possible.”

Nolan also is working on a companion bill in the House to legislation by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota to toughen U.S. trade enforcement policies and impose high duties on foreign imports causing harm to U.S. manufacturers and workers.

Nolan said U.S. trade officials simply don't act fast enough to save American jobs.

“The United States has proven itself incapable of enforcing trade agreements - and incapable of stopping illegal dumping of foreign steel once it reaches our shores. … So we need a moratorium on foreign steel,” Nolan said. “Beyond that, we need to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will cost us millions more jobs and the loss of thousands of additional manufacturing facilities.”