You’ve probably heard the slogan: “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner… in Nebraska.” From world-class packing plants in Omaha to ranches which span as far as the eye can see throughout the Sandhills, beef is our state’s largest industry. There are few things better than eating a (very!) rare steak at the Peppermill in Valentine or Plainsman Steakhouse in Juniata.

Increasingly, our beef isn’t just being served for dinner in Nebraska, but also around the world. In 2006, Nebraska beef accounted for less than four percent of all beef exported from the United States. In the first six months of 2016, Nebraska beef has risen to over 18 percent of U.S. beef exports.

These successes didn’t happen by accident. They’ve happened because Nebraskans have worked together to grow opportunities for our quality beef products over the past decade. Since 2005, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) has worked in partnership with the Nebraska Beef Council on a focused effort to grow beef exports internationally. For decades, Nebraska Governors have been leading overseas trade missions to establish new relationships and expand existing ones as well as hosting overseas diplomats and investors here in our state.

In the first two years of my administration, we have built upon this tradition. Last year, I led overseas trade missions to the European Union (EU) and Asia. Next week, I will be leading a trade mission to China, Hong Kong, and Macau with 80 individuals, one of the largest trade delegations the state has ever had. Trade mission attendees include representatives from Nebraska businesses, the University of Nebraska, and farmers and ranchers.

As Nebraska’s fourth largest trading partner, China presents many opportunities because of its growing middle class. For example, a growing middle class will demand more high quality food products. During the trade mission, we will be promoting Nebraska’s commodities, meeting with potential investors, and working to establish new partnerships.

In addition to the trade missions I personally lead, my agencies also spearhead additional missions throughout the year. Just a couple of weeks ago, Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach returned from a trip to the European Union where he followed up on our trade mission from last year, and promoted Nebraska beef. He was joined by representatives from the Nebraska Beef Council, Greater Omaha Packing Company, and the University of Nebraska. During visits to England, Germany, France, and Spain, the delegation promoted Nebraska commodities as well as signed agreements with businesses and organizations to feature and promote beef from Nebraska.

Continued commitment to developing trade opportunities has resulted in a huge increase in market share for Nebraska beef in the European Union. In 2005, the U.S. exported $36.3 million worth of beef to the EU, and Nebraska’s share of the market was only five percent valued at $1.8 million. In 2015, the U.S. exported $315.4 million worth of beef to the EU, and Nebraska’s market share grew to 45.2 percent valued at $142.7 million.

Continued success will require continued commitment. As I travel to China next week, I look forward to sharing with you some of the success stories about the trade mission, and to highlight some of the individuals and companies that will be joining us to promote Nebraska. If you have thoughts you would like to share about Nebraska’s trade relationships or partnerships, I hope you’ll write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call my office at 402-471-2244. Working together, we can continue to grow Nebraska!

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