Nebraska farmers and businesses are at the forefront of the noble pursuit of feeding the world. The ever growing global population only increases Nebraska’s export potential. With that in mind, last week I led a delegation from Nebraska on a trade mission to China where we saw firsthand the global opportunities for Nebraska products, services and research. The delegation included Nebraska ag, business, and community leaders committed to developing or expanding trade and investment opportunities in China. About 95 percent of the world’s consumers lie outside of our borders and we need to be proactive to grow trade that will create jobs at home.
China is Nebraska’s fourth largest trading partner and the fastest growing. Department of Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger and Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach took the lead planning the trip to China. China’s growing economy and middle class means an increasing demand for the high quality food and products for which Nebraska is known.
Our renewed focus on trade missions is critical to our goal of growing Nebraska. On this mission we saw a great partnership in action with Chapman, Nebraska’s Preferred Popcorn and Chinese company ZLTR. The two companies extended a deal for Preferred Popcorn to sell millions of pounds of bulk popcorn to ZLTR Trading for distribution in China. The opportunity for this deal was made possible by Preferred Popcorn’s CEO Norm Krug’s work on a previous trade mission to China in 2012.
Other highlights from the trade mission include the signing of nine letters of intent with suppliers to distribute Nebraska beef and pork products in Asia. Nebraska and Shaanxi province signed a sister state agreement that has been in the works for the past four years. The delegation attended the Nebraska BBQ in Macau where Nebraska beef and pork were on display to over 350 people in the Macau food industry. We also broke ground in China to launch a demonstration farm – the Nebraska-Yangling Center for Agricultural Development. This demonstration farm is a partnership amongst the State of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Yangling Agriculture Hi-Tech Demonstration Zone. Nebraska manufacturers will lend machinery to this farm free of charge as a part of the program. In exchange, these manufacturers will have the opportunity to bring potential customers and clients to the farm to demonstrate the viability of modern agricultural technology and techniques.
This trade mission gave us an opportunity to highlight Nebraska’s quality commodities and manufactured goods, and allowed us to capitalize on the recent announcement that China will be reopening its market to our US beef. This market had been closed to US beef exports for 13 years. Opening the Chinese market to Nebraska’s high quality beef products gives Nebraska farmers and ranchers more opportunities to market and sell their beef and create jobs here at home.
In addition to promoting agriculture, we also worked to attract foreign investments to Nebraska by building stronger relationships with Chinese businesses. Since 2010, foreign companies have invested more than $4.4 billion in our state through expansion and job creation. A great example of these types of global investments in Nebraska is Kawasaki. I met with Kawasaki on last year’s trade mission to Japan and the company has continued to expand its U.S. operations in Lincoln, NE. Another great example is Easyway International, a Xi’an, China based logistics firm that chose to locate its North American headquarters in Gretna. During this past trade mission, Mr. Xu, president of Easyway International, attended our “Invest in Nebraska” promotional events. These events created the opportunity for Nebraska representatives and business owners to speak to over 100 Chinese companies about business investment opportunities in Nebraska.
China offers Nebraska farmers, ranchers, and businesses tremendous growth potential but we must continue to strengthen our relationship. One way the University of Nebraska is assisting is through the 3+1 program. This program allows students to complete three years of study at China’s Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University and then finish their fourth year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am committed to working with the University on other ways like this that we can expand our relationships abroad. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is also working with Tongji University in Shanghai to train medical professionals.
This year’s trade mission proved to be an invaluable tool in making new connections, building on existing relationships with Chinese businesses, and increasing our export potential. As I’ve said before, my goal as your governor is to grow Nebraska. This trade mission is just one example of our continued efforts to make that happen here in the Cornhusker state.
Brief Daily Summaries of Trade Mission Activity
Wednesday, Nov. 9, Yangling and Xi’an
- Ground was broken to create a working demonstration farm – Nebraska-Yangling Center for Agricultural Development.
- Along with Governor Hu, we signed the Sister State agreement with Shaanxi Province. Nebraska and Shaanxi have a ten year history dating back to when the University of Nebraska Medical Center first collaborated with Xi’an Jiaotong University and Shaanxi Health.
- Met with Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University President Qixin and spoke to students of the university.
Thursday, Nov. 10, Xi’an and Shanghai
- Took a tour led by local officials of Shaanxi’s Hi-Tech Development Zone. Xi’an Hi-Tech Industries Development Zone, one of the earliest Chinese science parks, is regarded as one of the most successful of the 114 national high-tech zones.
- Opened a business-to-business meeting between over 150 business leaders from Nebraska and Shaanxi Province. Those initial meetings are integral to growing those important relationships between Nebraska and Chinese businesses.
Friday, Nov. 11, Shanghai
- In Shanghai, the trade delegation participated in a U.S. Department of Agriculture briefing where we learned about current and future programs designed to help increase exports from the U.S. and Nebraska to China.
- After dining at the YUE, a progressive fusion style restaurant serving U.S./Nebraska pork, YUE owners signed a letter of intent to purchase more U.S./Nebraska pork.
- Nebraska representatives spoke at an Invest in Nebraska promotional event attended by 100 Chinese companies interested in business investment opportunities in Nebraska.
- Met with the Shanghai Mayor’s office to discuss cultivating the relationship between Shanghai and Nebraska.
Saturday, Nov. 12, Shanghai and various cities
- Toured the Jiangsu World Agriculture Machinery facility and met with World Group chairman Mr. Wang. Jiangsu World Agriculture Machinery Co., Ltd. Is a subsidiary of World Group.
- The Nebraska delegation toured a ZLTR Trading Inc. facility.
- After the tour, Preferred Popcorn and ZLTR Trading Inc. signed a contract for ZLTR to purchase millions of pounds of bulk popcorn from Preferred, making China one of the largest markets among the 70 countries Preferred sells in.
Sunday, Nov. 13, Hong Kong
- After arriving in Hong Kong, part of the Nebraska delegation visited Hong Kong Disneyland where officials have pledged to continue a program they started about six years ago to feature beef from Nebraska at restaurants in the park.
- The UNL Alumni Association and Nebraska Pork Producers hosted the Nebraska vs Minnesota football game at a Chinese sports center. We welcomed UNL alumni living in China and promoted Nebraska pork.
Monday, Nov. 14, Macau
- The Nebraska delegation attended the annual Nebraska BBQ at the Studio City Hotel where more than 350 Macau food industry people were there to see firsthand the advantages of using beef and pork from Nebraska.
- Signed a number of letters of intent with suppliers to distribute Nebraska beef and pork.
Tuesday, Nov.15, Hong Kong
- Met privately with the U.S. Consulate General to discuss agriculture, economics, opportunities and exports and how they all affect Nebraska.
- Ate lunch at the Nebraska Steakhouse which gave the trade delegation a chance to see and taste the tastiest beef, all from Nebraska. We signed letters of intent to promote Nebraska beef.
Ended the day with a reception at the U.S. Consulate’s Residence to network with Hong Kong government officials and business leaders.