Tag Archives: Governor Pete Ricketts

Summer means it is fair season in Nebraska.  From county fairs to the state fair, Nebraskans come together to celebrate Nebraska agriculture and the best our communities have to offer.  Agricultural fairs have been a part of our state’s heritage since before our founding in 1867, and 151 years later they continue to help the next generation stay connected to and learn about our state’s number one industry.

Perhaps President Abraham Lincoln put it best during an address he delivered at a Wisconsin fair in 1859: “[Fairs] bring us together, and thereby make us better acquainted, and better friends than we otherwise would be.  They make more pleasant, and more strong, and more durable, the bond of social and political union among us.  But the chief use of agricultural fairs is to aid in improving the great calling of agriculture, in all its departments, and minute divisions…’

Over the past few weeks, I have been traveling to county fairs with the Department of Agriculture to announce new counties who have joined the Livestock Friendly County Program.  The Livestock Friendly County (LFC) program was created by the Nebraska Legislature in 2003 to recognize counties that support the livestock industry and new livestock developments.  This designation lets the livestock industry know that the county is “open for business” and welcomes expansion of current facilities or the addition of new operations.  A county wishing to be designated as a LFC must hold a public hearing, the county board must pass a resolution, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) evaluates the county based on six key criteria.

At three fairs, we have designated Seward, Polk, and Furnas counties as livestock friendly.  With these counties, over half of Nebraska’s counties are now livestock friendly.  This is important because value-added agriculture and livestock development are key to growing our state’s number one industry and creating new opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  For example, Costco is building their first-ever poultry processing facility in Fremont.  Projected to open in 2019, the project is expected to generate an overall economic impact of $1.2 billion annually, create approximately 800 new jobs, and bring opportunities to raise poultry for 125 farm families in eastern Nebraska.  This will allow our farm families to build equity, diversify their operation, and bring the next generation back to the family farm.  When it is fully operational, the project will utilize the equivalent of 2,000 acres of corn and 2,000 acres of soybeans every week.

The county fairs are a prelude to the Nebraska State Fair, which runs August 24th through September 3rd in Grand Island this year.  Last year, the State Fair welcomed 379,108 people, an increase of 5 percent year-over-year and just shy of the all-time record.  Fair organizers consistently add new features every year, and are looking to continue to attract more Nebraskans.  Here are a few important stops for you to consider as you make plans for the fair.

From center pivot technology to a display on how eggs grow, the “Raising Nebraska” building helps connect Nebraskans with the fundamentals of modern agriculture.  The 25,000 square foot exhibit features exhibits on soil conservation, a combine simulator, and an interactive aquifer, which connect visitors to virtually every aspect of modern day farming and ranching.  This year, the NDA, along with numerous other commodity groups, will be utilizing the kitchen stage to showcase Nebraska food products.  The NDA demonstrations will feature fresh, locally-sourced produce.

I always look forward to experiencing the fair food.  This year, state fair attendees can look forward to a mac and cheese sandwich, a bacon wrapped gator corn dog, and bourbon honey pulled pork among many other options.  My all-time favorite is the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Beef Pit where you can enjoy a delicious prime rib sandwich.  There is no better way to celebrate our Beef State heritage!

In recent years, the fair has also become host to great concerts.  This year’s fair will feature American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, country music duo Sugarland, and contemporary Christian artist Francesca Battistelli.  You can find a full lineup of fair entertainment by visiting https://www.statefair.org/events/music.

Whether it is showing livestock or showcasing the latest innovations in agriculture, fairs have been bringing Nebraskans together and strengthening our communities for over 150 years.  In the 21st century, they are more critical than ever, helping connect Nebraskans living in towns and cities across our state with the farm and ranch families at the heart and soul of our state’s number one industry.  As you enjoy your local county fair or the State Fair, I hope you take time to share your experiences and reflections by emailing pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or calling 402-471-2244.  I look forward to hearing from you.

On Friday, at the Seward County Fair, Governor Pete Ricketts named Seward County Nebraska’s newest Livestock Friendly County (LFC). Seward County is the 48th county in Nebraska to receive the LFC designation. The LFC program is administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).

“Agriculture is the largest segment of Nebraska’s economy,” said Governor Ricketts. “Congratulations to Seward County on becoming livestock friendly. With more than half of all Nebraska counties designated as livestock friendly, we are setting ourselves up for long-term growth by creating more opportunities for the next generation of farm families.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Seward County had a total of $308 million in market value of agriculture products for the year 2012. Livestock sales accounted for $124 million, or 40 percent of the total value, with cattle/calves, hogs, and dairy being the largest livestock segments in the county. Crop production accounted for $184 million, or 60 percent of the total value. Major crops raised in Seward County include corn and soybeans.

“There are nearly 1,000 farms in Seward County, so people there are familiar with livestock development and all the benefits that come with responsible livestock production,” said Steve Martin, Ag Promotion Coordinator with the NDA. “By applying for and receiving Nebraska’s Livestock Friendly County designation, the people of Seward County are supporting the livestock industry and recognizing the tremendous impact the industry has on the local economy.”

The LFC program was created by the Nebraska Legislature in 2003 to recognize counties that support the livestock industry and new livestock developments. A county wishing to apply for the LFC designation must hold a public hearing, and the county board must pass a resolution to apply for the designation. Additional information about the LFC program is available on NDA’s website at nda.nebraska.gov or by calling 800-422-6692.

International trade, direct investment, and partnerships are key to growing Nebraska.  From providing markets for our quality ag commodities to creating jobs in communities across our state, international partnerships are building great opportunities every day.  Over the years, Japan has become a key trading partner for Nebraska.  Japan is our largest direct international investor and one of our largest export markets.  To build on these successes, I have led two trade missions to Japan aimed at expanding exports, recruiting new investments, and identifying new partnerships.

Trade missions have been key to successfully expanding our exports of agricultural goods to Japan.  Japan is Nebraska’s largest export market for beef, pork, and eggs and, overall, it is our third largest ag export market.  From 2016 to 2017, Nebraska saw a 26 percent increase in our beef exports to Japan and a 46 percent increase in pork exports.  During our trade mission to Japan in 2017, the Sagami Restaurant Chain in Tokyo signed an agreement with Smithfield to use Nebraska pork in their restaurants.  Thanks to the efforts of many Nebraskans over the years, deals like these continue to create new opportunities for our farm and ranch families.

Since Kawasaki opened their first manufacturing line in Lincoln in 1974, investments from Japanese companies have been creating great job opportunities in Nebraska.  In fact, since 2010, Japanese companies have invested $4.4 billion in our state.  About 35 Japanese-owned companies employ 9,400 Nebraskans in communities throughout the state including David City, Lincoln, Norfolk, Omaha, and Ogallala among others.  From Yasufuku, which manufactures rubber parts, to Gavilon, a commodities management and trading firm, the companies from Japan investing in Nebraska are very diverse and they continue to invest in our state.  In 2017, Kawasaki expanded their commitment to Nebraska and opened their first North American aerospace division in Lincoln.  This investment followed a visit to their office during our trade mission to Japan in 2015.

This week, Governor Toshizo Ido of Hyogo Prefecture will be visiting Nebraska.  Hyogo Prefecture is home to the city of Kobe, where Kawasaki is headquartered in Japan.  A prefecture is a form of government similar to a state in America.  Like Nebraska, Hyogo has agriculture and manufacturing as two of its top industries.  During Governor Ido’s visit, we plan to host a seminar on investing in Nebraska with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and to work on strengthening ties between Nebraska and Hyogo.

In September, Nebraska will have another opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with Japan.  Our state has the great honor of hosting the 50th annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference.  Governors, business executives, and hundreds of people from both Japan and the United States will converge on Omaha for a three-day conference focused on growing trade and job opportunities between our two countries.  This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to highlight Nebraska as a great place to do business and invest for major companies.  If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming conference, please visit www.midwest-japan.org for more information.

The Nebraska-Japan relationship is just one example of how important international trade and partnerships are to growing our economy and job opportunities.  If you would like to share how trade is helping grow your community, I hope you will take the time to write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.  We look forward to hearing your stories.