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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Growing Trade Relationships

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The overarching goal of my administration is Growing Nebraska. Opening and expanding overseas markets is a critical part of finding new opportunities for Nebraska businesses in a global economy. From June 7th to the 15th, leaders in agriculture and economic development from across Nebraska joined me on a very successful international trade mission, the first of my administration. This trade mission took us to the European Union (EU) where we visited Italy, Belgium, and Denmark. With 500 million consumers across 28 countries, the European Union holds many markets and opportunities for trade with our state. During the mission, the delegation met with business executives, farm cooperatives, and government leaders to invite investment in Nebraska, dispel misconceptions about Nebraska farms, and build trade relationships.

In Italy and Belgium, the delegation met with Coldiretti and CopaCogeca, potential investors in Nebraska’s agribusinesses. Coldiretti is an Italian farmer and food processor association and is the largest agricultural professional organization in Europe. Brussels-based CopaCogeca serves as a voice for farmers and co-ops within the European Union. During the delegation’s conversations with these investors, we had the unique opportunity to learn about food production and food processing in the EU, while outlining for them why Nebraska is the ideal food processing location for their operations.

Many Europeans have misconceptions about Nebraska agriculture, and the delegation shared with EU leaders the scientific methods modern American farmers and ranchers rely on and urged EU leaders to base trade policy on sound scientific research. The ag producers who were part of the delegation were also able to dispel a common myth that Nebraska farms are corporate farms, when in reality, 98% of our state’s farms are family-owned or operated.

The delegation also met with companies that already invest in Nebraska, such as Inalca, CNH Industrial, and Novozymes to express our commitment to growing our relationship with them and to talk about future opportunities. Inalca, based in Italy, is one of the largest purchasers of Nebraska beef in the European Union. CNH Industrial is a multinational company headquartered in Italy and employs 800 people at its Grand Island, Nebraska facility. In Denmark, the delegation met with the CEO of Novozymes, Peder Nielsen, and toured the company’s headquarters. This Copenhagen-based company is a world leader in bio-innovations and a leading manufacturer of enzymes, microorganisms, and biopharmaceutical ingredients. Three years ago, Novozymes opened a manufacturing plant in Nebraska. The company’s Blair facility employs more than 100 people and is dedicated to making enzymes and renewable fuels. Mr. Nielsen told me that his company has invested nearly a quarter billion dollars in Nebraska already. Novozymes has expressed interest in expanding in the U.S., but their leadership indicated to us that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a hurdle to future expansion plans.

This trade mission reinforced that great relationships can lay the foundation for future trade opportunities, but that it is also critical that Congress continues to pursue trade policy that allows these relationships to bear fruit. The recent failure by the House of Representatives to approve the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill stopped Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and puts at risk other pending agreements. The U.S. has been working diligently to establish a final trade agreement with the European Union, which is critical in creating an export environment that does not unfairly restrict U.S. companies from delivering goods to Europe. While the House finally moved TPA forward in a subsequent vote, Nebraskans should be watching closely as the Senate takes up this legislation.

The trade mission was very successful due to the organizational efforts of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Nebraska Department of Agriculture. I appreciate the efforts and support of the consulates and embassy staff of the United States in each country. I am especially grateful to the many individuals who paid their own way to join the trade mission. Nebraskans can be proud of how the entire delegation represented our state.

On this mission, we took advantage of opportunities to dispel myths about American agriculture, highlight Nebraska products, and share information with EU leaders about modern farming methods. The delegation met with many companies that are looking for partners in the U.S., and several of them have contacted the state since the mission to arrange follow-up visits to Nebraska in the coming months. I am looking forward to building on this momentum, and working to Grow Nebraska in future trade missions.