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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Growing Exports, Importing Opportunity

Last week, I joined more than 300 Nebraskans to talk about the future of Nebraska agriculture at my Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney. For nearly two days, experts shared ideas about successful farm transitions, value-added agriculture, and bridging Nebraska’s urban-rural divide. The conference also focused on growing Nebraska’s exports, which is a top priority in my administration.
 
Nebraskans need to be strategic and aggressive about trade opportunities to grow our state. My budget recommendation provides for additional funding for export trade missions in both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Economic Development. In my administration, these departments will work more closely together than ever before.
 
Nebraska’s Ag exports brought in $6.6 billion dollars in 2013. Between 2005 and 2014, Nebraskans participated in nine trade missions. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and USDA work hand in hand to facilitate these projects.
 
The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service holds nearly 100 offices in 82 countries around the world. Mike Dwyer serves as Director of the Global Policy Analysis Division and spoke with Nebraskans at last week’s conference. He predicts growth within the middle class in countries like China, Latin America, and Southeast Asia may one day lead to a greater demand for Nebraska commodities. As disposable income grows globally, our foreign partners will have more to spend on Nebraska’s high quality protein, like beef, pork and chicken, as well as grains like soybeans, ethanol, and processed consumer foods.
 
As production of these crops continues, America must also expedite the trade negotiation process. Last week, I joined Nebraska Ag Director Greg Ibach and groups across Nebraska in an effort to push forward legislation in Washington to grant Trade Promotion Authority to the President. Trade Promotion Authority has the ability to put America in stronger positions to negotiate with other nations, as well as promote American products in new markets. TPA has been granted to every American President by Congress since 1974 to better secure trade agreements with foreign markets. TPA expired in 2007. Reinstating TPA is another way to stimulate our economy and Grow Nebraska by streamlining our abilities to strike trade deals.    
 
At last week’s conference, I met with a group of 50 Nebraskans who represent groups promoting Nebraska’s many ag-based products, including beef, ethanol, poultry, dairy, wheat, and beans. These advocates of agriculture are proactive, innovative, and promote our state’s many commodities. Cindi Allen, of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission (NDBC), is a great example. Cindi spoke on behalf of the commission at the conference. Cindi and her husband, Doug, grow dry beans on their farm in Keith County, as well as corn, wheat, and sunflowers. Her work within the NDBC continues to preserve dry bean markets in South and Central America, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. She recently met with leaders at the U.N.’s World Food Program in Rome, to explore ways to develop Nebraska exports with a humanitarian presence in emerging markets. Nebraska is now the 3rd largest producer of dry beans in the U.S.
 
Ag producer Brent Robertson has also witnessed how Nebraskans can play a role in developing ag markets around the world. Robertson represented the Nebraska Wheat Board at last week’s conference, and reported that 50% of Nebraska’s wheat crop is exported to other countries, including Japan, Nigeria, Brazil and Mexico. Robertson visited millers and food processers in Nigeria last year, and just months later, hosted the same group on his Elsie farm. Fostering these relationships secures markets for Nebraska commodities, and exposes global producers to Nebraska’s technology-based production and conservation methods.
 
As Nebraska continues to focus on building new trade relationships overseas, I’m also working with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to advocate our products domestically. On April 9th and 10th, Director Ibach and I will join producers for a trade promotion trip. The event will feature Nebraska beef at three New York City restaurants, including Burger & Lobster, Empire Steakhouse, and Bull and Bear Prime Steakhouse, which was once frequented by Buffalo Bill Cody. Promotion activities are also planned at Ottomanelli Butcher Shop.
 
As your Governor, I am proud to promote the products grown by producers on Nebraska’s thousands of farms and ranches. Expanding our ag exports not only promotes Nebraska’s number one industry, but it also protects our way of life.
 
As agriculture continues to evolve, my administration welcomes new ideas from those of you in every corner of our great state. I look forward to working with each and every one of you to grow agriculture and Grow Nebraska.
 
As always, you are welcome to contact my office at (402) 471-2244, or by email at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov.