Update: Beef from Nebraska heading to China

Governor Pete Ricketts was among those loading the first shipments of Nebraska beef to China. (Nebraska Governor's Office)

The first box of beef headed to Nebraska for China has now been loaded.

Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach joined Greater Omaha Packing President Henry Davis to do it on Wednesday.

“Nebraska is the country’s top beef processor as well as beef exporter, and China is the second largest importer of beef in the world,” said Governor Ricketts. “From the beginning, my administration focused trade efforts on China to position Nebraska beef to be able to capture significant sales as soon as the market opened.”

The Governor has visited China twice in the past two years, advocating to reopen trade between the country and the U.S.

China has banned U.S. beef for more than a decade.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Nebraska and we are excited to continue the work we started years ago to develop and strengthen relationships with China,” said NDA Director Greg Ibach. “When people around the world think about high quality, delicious beef, they think Nebraska, and we are now pleased to be able to offer those Nebraska beef products to China.”

Final details on the deal with China were announced Monday. Among the requirements, U.S. producers must track the birthplace of cattle born in the United States that are destined for export to China. The Governor’s office said many Nebraska producers already do this.

“Chinese officials toured our company’s Omaha plant last fall to learn about our high international animal health and food safety standards and traceability and labeling protocols,” said GOP President Henry Davis. “We’re excited to be shipping beef to China for the first time in 14 years.”

“Thank you to the countless federal, state, and industry partners who worked together to make this a reality,” said Governor Ricketts. “Our recent trade missions to China and the efforts of Ag Director Ibach, Economic Development Director Dentlinger and their teams helped lay the groundwork for this success. Access to the Chinese market allows Nebraska farmers and ranchers to sell our quality beef to 1.4 billion new customers, and this will help to grow our state for years to come.”

According to Ricketts, since 2005, Nebraska’s share of the international U.S. beef sales have increased from 3.6 percent to more than 18 percent, and Nebraska’s market share in Europe has increased from 5 percent to nearly 50 percent of total sales.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said in a statement, "The fact that beef from Nebraska is being shipped to China today is great news for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. China presents a tremendous market opportunity for Nebraska beef. As a top beef producer, Nebraska has much to gain from a market estimated to be worth $2.6 billion. While Farm Bureau’s primary focus continues to be securing full access for American and Nebraska beef into China, today is an important first step to making that a reality.

“The development of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Certified Beef from Nebraska Program and other age and source verified programs are important to allowing Nebraska farmers and ranchers the ability to grow the presence of Nebraska beef into this critical market.”

Representative Adrian Smith reacted to the shipment Wednesday.

"We want to sell to more places around the world so more beef going to China, a very, highly populated country. We know that with more ability on the part of many Chinese to purchase more protein we want to benefit from that and so I think this is great news," he said to NTV.

Now, Smith said he’s focused on securing more trade. The congressman recently introduced a resolution calling on the Trump Administration to pursue a trade agreement with Japan.

“We know that U.S. beef tastes better than Australian beef, but right now, because Australia engaged in a trade agreement with Japan that Japan reduced that tariff on Australian beef,” Smith said. “It’s time that we work to reduce that Japanese tariff on U.S. meat, on U.S. beef especially."

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