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Trade missions are one of the top ways we can grow Nebraska. With 95 percent of the world’s population living beyond our borders, there are billions of potential customers around the world. When it comes to trade, Nebraska’s ag products are some of our top exports. Every year, we export about $2 billion worth of soybean products, $1.2 billion of beef, and almost $1.2 billion of corn. To build international markets for our quality products, the Director of the Department of Agriculture and I have recently completed trade missions to Mexico and Vietnam that have great potential and opportunities for Nebraska farmers and ranchers.

Last week, I returned from a trade mission to Mexico where we focused on promoting agriculture, identifying new business opportunities, and strengthening relationships with our existing customers. Over the last few years, I have led trade missions to Japan twice, China twice, the European Union, and Canada, but this was my first one to Mexico. Mexico is Nebraska’s second-largest agricultural export market, so it presents tremendous opportunities for producers and businesses in Nebraska. The trip really gave us a big step up in expanding Nebraska’s brand in this important market as well as a great opportunity to say thank you to our neighbor and one of our best customers.

While in Mexico, the delegation met with leaders in manufacturing and agriculture, and visited a facility outside of Mexico City owned by Preferred Popcorn, a Nebraska-based company. Nebraska is the number one state for popcorn production. We attended meetings with representatives from the State of Mexico and other government officials to talk to them about how we can strengthen trade ties. We concluded the mission with events for leaders in the Mexico meat industry to promote our quality ag products. Mexico imports almost $300 million of corn annually from Nebraska as well as $187 million of soybean products and $132 million of beef. People we talked to during the mission expressed interest in buying more of our quality grains so that Mexico can develop their livestock industry.

Our delegation to Mexico consisted of 25 people representing the state including Director of Economic Development Dave Rippe, key commodity groups, successful businesses, and the University of Nebraska in Omaha. When these groups come together as a united team it shows the world that Nebraska values agriculture, recognizes the importance of trade, and is a great place to do business. It was one of our larger delegations, and the quality and commitment of the group really helped tell Nebraska’s story and made an impact on the officials and business people we talked with in Mexico.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman was in Vietnam a couple weeks ago to promote Nebraska agriculture and to introduce potential buyers and distributors to quality Nebraska beef. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and Nebraska stands to benefit from that growth by focusing on increasing exports and identifying new business opportunities.

While in Vietnam, Director Wellman met with several agribusiness leaders and hosted a forum designed to introduce potential buyers and distributors interested in beef from Nebraska. The forum was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink. At the forum, Kritenbrink, a Nebraska native and a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Kearney, shared his memories of growing up on a farm near Ashland and emphasized the state’s leading role in agriculture.

During the trip, Director Wellman signed Letters of Intent with three Vietnamese companies interested in selling beef from Nebraska in Vietnam. The Bao Ngoc Company, the largest of the three, currently has a distribution network of more than 10,000 grocery stores and 500 restaurants. The other two businesses were D&A Vietnam JSC and Duc Anh Import Export.

These trade missions are a part of an overall trade strategy that I recently outlined with the Governor’s Council for International Relations, a committee of agriculture, business, and education groups involved in trade. The Council has three areas of focus: growing exports, attracting new international investment, and identifying new opportunities for partnerships. In early August, the Council unveiled a strategic plan for the next five years of our work in the area of international engagement. The plan identified targeted countries like Vietnam and Mexico as good places for Nebraska to focus on increasing exports and identifying new business opportunities.

As you can see, trade is one of the best ways we can grow opportunities in agriculture across Nebraska. In the coming years, we will continue to implement the strategies laid out in our plan, and we will identify new priorities as they arise along the way. If you have suggestions about growing Nebraska through trade and agriculture, please contact me by emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244.

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Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska

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