Farm Progress

Governor talks with Nebraska Farmer about trade’s importance to agriculture and an upcoming trade mission to Japan.

Tyler Harris, Editor

July 21, 2017

5 Min Read
NEBRASKA AG OVERSEAS: In a recent Q&A with Nebraska Farmer, Gov. Pete Ricketts discussed some upcoming trade missions to Canada and Japan — two of the U.S.' biggest trade partners. Ricketts discussed the critical role trade plays for Nebraska agriculture.ingram publishing

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is visiting trade partners promoting state agriculture products. In August, Ricketts is visiting Canada. In September, Ricketts makes a second international trade visit to Japan.

In a recent Q&A, Ricketts shares his views with Nebraska Farmer on trade and its impact on Nebraska farms and ranches.

What are some of your goals for this trade mission and are there any particular customers you plan to visit or products you hope to promote?

Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers lie outside our borders. If we're going to expand, especially agriculture, we need to open up markets overseas to be able to sell more of our products there. That is really why we do these trade missions — to help develop those relationships.

In August, I'll be going to Canada to say thank you to our best customer. We ship about $468 million worth of ag products to Canada every year, so I want to thank them for their business and let them know we value their relationship and want to expand upon it.

Japan is another country we do a lot of business with. In fact, it's our third-largest trading partner and the largest outside of North America. We want to say thank you to the companies that have invested in our state and are buying our products. For example, we have increased our beef exports to Japan by 36% from 2015 to 2016.

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In my 2015 trade mission to Europe, we met with Novozymes while we were in Denmark. They just announced recently they're going to be investing $36 million in their Blair facility. We go on these trade missions to be able to open up markets for Nebraska companies and producers, but also to develop relationships with companies like Novozymes to encourage their investment here in Nebraska to create jobs as well.

Recently Greater Omaha Packing shipped the first box of U.S. beef to China in 14 years. And there is movement for Certified Beef from Nebraska. What role do trade missions play in promoting Nebraska brands?

That's absolutely one of the things we promote heavily in all of our trade missions is Certified Beef from Nebraska. We've got the best beef in the world grown right here in Nebraska. We want to promote that in countries like Japan.

I want to compliment Greg Ibach and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, because they've been working on this for a long time to open up those opportunities. We've gone from having about 3.6% of the overall beef export market to having over 18% right now. We're the largest beef exporter in the country — $1.1 billion worth every year. Our total market share in Europe has gone from 5% to 50%, because Greg Ibach and NDA have gone to Europe and asked for their business.

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When we were in Europe on that same trade mission in 2015, we visited with Inalca, who is the largest importer of Nebraska beef into Europe, thanking them for their business and helping to open opportunities for them to highlight Nebraska beef as a great product for Europe. We want to do that in Japan as well. We've increased our exports to Japan, and want to build on that foundation.

That's why we went to China last year to help open up the doors to get ready for the Chinese market opening up to U.S. beef. We led trade missions in 2015 and 2016, met with Chinese officials to encourage them to open up the marketplace. And specifically last fall, we met with a number of customers who distribute into China and signed letters of intent for them to use Nebraska beef when that market opens up. Of course, now we are opened up, and it was a Nebraska company, Greater Omaha Packing, who sent the first shipment of U.S. beef over to China. If we can get the same market share in China as we have in Japan today, it means an additional $200 million in sales just to the state of Nebraska. That's a big deal.

Are you working with the current administration in encouraging the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] without disrupting trade for U.S. ag?

When candidate Trump was in Nebraska in May of 2016, the first thing I talked to him about was trade, because trade is so important to Nebraska. As part of that conversation, we specifically talked about the Chinese beef market being closed to U.S. beef. He promised to work on that as one of his key priorities. I also had that conversation with then Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad when he was nominated to be the ambassador to China, and has since been approved to that role. He said he would make that one of his top priorities as well. When President Trump met with Xi Jinping in April, they talked about a new trade relationship. We're seeing the benefits of that right now. It's a lot of work by a lot of people, but you have to go out and make the sale, to encourage the opening of those markets.

We want to continue to do that. When we're talking about the modernization of NAFTA, this is an agreement that has worked very well for Nebraska. Canada is our No. 1 trade partner, and Mexico is our No. 2 trade partner. A few weeks ago, we had a Mexican trade delegation here talking about their concerns with what might happen to NAFTA, and how they might start looking for markets in other places, like Brazil, for example.

As one of our best customers, we want to make sure we're taking care of them, and we also want to make sure we're taking care of Canada. The goal of the trade mission to Canada is really to thank our No. 1 trade partner, tell them how much we value that relationship, and work to hear their concerns about how this modernization of NAFTA may work, and ultimately work to get the message to the administration that modernization is a fine thing, but we don't want to disrupt the parts of the current NAFTA relationship that are benefiting Nebraska.


About the Author(s)

Tyler Harris

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Tyler Harris is the editor for Wallaces Farmer. He started at Farm Progress as a field editor, covering Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Before joining Farm Progress, Tyler got his feet wet covering agriculture and rural issues while attending the University of Iowa, taking any chance he could to get outside the city limits and get on to the farm. This included working for Kalona News, south of Iowa City in the town of Kalona, followed by an internship at Wallaces Farmer in Des Moines after graduation.

Coming from a farm family in southwest Iowa, Tyler is largely interested in how issues impact people at the producer level. True to the reason he started reporting, he loves getting out of town and meeting with producers on the farm, which also gives him a firsthand look at how agriculture and urban interact.

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