Nebraska’s Global Reach
By Governor Pete Ricketts
November 9, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
Nebraskans often talk about how we feed the world. It’s true now more than ever. The crops and livestock we grow and the goods we make reach far-flung places across the globe. Diners in Japan, drivers in Germany, and farmers in Africa all benefit from the products we make and grow. Our international relationships are having a big impact. Over the past decade, Nebraska exports have totaled almost $10 billion per year. Continuing to grow international trade will create more great-paying jobs to keep our kids and grandkids in Nebraska and attract more people here to our state.
To do this, we brought together all the major stakeholders involved in trade in Nebraska. In July 2017, I convened a Council for International Relations in Nebraska. It aligns the work of leaders in agriculture, business, education, and state agencies to more effectively promote our state. One of the Council’s first initiatives was to advocate for a renegotiated North American trade agreement. By signing USMCA, the Trump Administration delivered on our Council’s goals of reducing tariff barriers and modernizing the trade deal to reflect technological advances. USMCA took effect on July 1, 2020. In 2021, USMCA has helped put the United States on track to break the previous record for annual ag exports to both Canada and Mexico.
The Trump Administration also worked to open China to U.S. beef, reduce tariffs on exports to Japan, and reopen the Vietnamese market to dried distillers grains. These trade deals have greatly benefited Nebraska. For example, China has purchased over $135 million of Nebraska beef so far in 2021 (through September) after buying virtually no beef from our state from 2004-2016. Japan, which is the top international destination for Nebraska agricultural exports, is purchasing near-record amounts of U.S. ag products this year now that lower tariffs are in place. Vietnam, which halted imports of U.S. dried distillers grains in December 2016, has already purchased more than a quarter-billion dollars of them in 2021.
There are still big opportunities for trade deals out there. The Trump Administration was nearing completion of a trade agreement with the United Kingdom in 2020, but negotiations have stalled under the Biden Administration. When I met with UK diplomats in August, they informed me that formal talks hadn’t occurred since President Biden took office. It’s time for President Biden to step up, jump start these talks, and demonstrate a commitment to expanding markets for our farmers and ranchers.
We’ve been doing this work in my administration. Over the years, I’ve led a number of trade missions to help grow Nebraska’s international commerce. I’ve been to Japan three times, Mexico twice, Germany twice, China twice, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, and Canada.
As part of our state’s Council for International Relations, the Department of Economic Development (DED) researches markets and industries where Nebraska has high potential for growth. This allows us to be strategic about where to pursue international investments. For example, DED identified Advanced Manufacturing as a high-growth industry, and Germany as a top investor in this segment of the economy.
Last week, I led a small team to Germany to thank companies for choosing to invest in Nebraska. We also promoted our state as a place for even more German firms to do business. While in Germany, our team visited CLAAS, which manufacturers combines, tractors, and harvesters. Its North American operations are based in Omaha, and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce named CLAAS as our state’s Large Manufacturer of the Year in 2020. CLAAS recently opened a 20,000 square foot training academy in west Omaha. The company’s innovative German apprenticeship program is providing graduates of Nebraska’s high schools with great opportunities to earn income while studying for industry certifications and an associate degree in their field of work.
Trade missions give us the opportunity to promote the innovative products manufactured in our state. For example, our 2019 trade mission helped Lindsay Corporation land a deal to deploy its Road Zipper systems on Germany’s motorways. The Road Zipper is being used outside of Munich to allow the city to rapidly reconfigure traffic lanes to ease congestion.
Through the years, the relationships established on these trade missions have opened doors for our ag producers to sell their premium grains and meats. For instance, Smithfield in Crete signed a major contract to supply a Japanese restaurant chain (Sagami) with pork during our 2017 travels to Tokyo. Just before the pandemic, a Vietnamese trade delegation came to Lincoln as a follow up to our 2019 trade mission to Hanoi. During the visit, they committed to buy $3 billion of beef, corn, distillers grains, soybeans, and wheat from Nebraska.
Aided by the trade relationships we’ve built, we’re seeing strong momentum in ag exports. Nebraska’s beef exports so far in 2021 are higher than they’ve ever been at this point in the year. U.S. corn exports are having a historically strong year. Corn exports over the first nine months of 2021 are greater than they were in all of 2019 and 2020 combined! U.S. soybean and wheat exports are also up compared to last year.
Nebraska’s global reach will continue to create great opportunities in the Good Life here for generations to come. As we move forward, we’ll continue to prioritize international engagement to grow our state. If you have questions about our work to promote Nebraska abroad or any other topic, please email email@example.com or call 402-471-2244. I look forward to hearing from you.