Tag Archives: Governor Pete Ricketts

LINCOLN – The Office of Governor Pete Ricketts urged Nebraska agriculture and business leaders to register for the 50thAnnual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference in Omaha this September 9th-11th.  Each year, the conference attracts 400 U.S. and Japanese business executives, and will highlight the strong relationship between Japan and Midwestern states.

 

“Our state has the great honor of hosting the 50th Annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference,” said Governor Ricketts.  “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.”

 

The conference is known as the pinnacle forum for dialogue on Midwest U.S.-Japan business relations.  Event highlights will include globally recognized speakers and panelists, an opening luncheon at Jun Kaneko Gallery, a celebration of Nebraska agriculture dinner, and a gala dinner sponsored by Kawasaki and Union Pacific at the Durham Western Heritage Museum.

 

For more information about the conference, or to register, click here.

 

Japan is Nebraska’s fourth-largest international trading partner and largest foreign investor.  Governor Ricketts has led two trade missions to Japan.  Lt. Governor Mike Foley will be joining a Governors Forum hosted by the National Governors Association next week in Tokyo.

In our ag economy, biofuels are playing an increasingly important role in growing more opportunity for the next generation of farm families.  With economic uncertainty and low commodity prices, ethanol not only helps build reliable demand for our corn, but it also helps our country achieve greater energy independence.  Nebraska now has the capacity to produce over 2.5 billion gallons of ethanol.  The ethanol industry directly employs over 1,300 Nebraskans and indirectly supports many more jobs.  Because of this, we have been spurring investment in ethanol by increasing flex fuel infrastructure, expanding trade opportunities, and advocating for biofuels at the federal level.

Over the summer, I have been traveling the state to highlight the availability of new flex fuel infrastructure.  In the past couple of years, my team and the Nebraska Energy Office has been working with the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Ethanol Board to install more flex fuel pumps in communities across the state.  Recently, I visited Grant where Aurora Cooperative has launched a new flex fuel pump.  In May, I attended a ribbon cutting event for new flex fuel pumps at the Bosselman Travel Center in Grand Island.  As new fuel choices are offered at more retail locations, consumers become better acquainted with these options and the lower prices.  These new pumps will distribute thousands of gallons of biofuels to the many travelers crossing our state.

International trade is another important key to growing biofuels.  Last September, Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board and Duane Kristensen of Chief Ethanol in Grand Island joined my trade mission to Japan.  There they visited with the U.S. Grains Council about the Japanese market, which has since opened to American ethanol.  The U.S. Grains Council, which the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska Corn Board are members of, has been undertaking a major effort to expand exports into Japan.  In 2015, I led another trade delegation to Denmark to visit the headquarters of Novozymes, a company that produces enzymes used in ethanol production.  During the visit, we urged the company to continue to expand their investment in Nebraska.  Since that visit, Novozymes has invested about $50 million more into Nebraska.  These stories illustrate why it is so important that our global partners hear directly from Nebraskans on trade missions, so we can continue to open up more markets and attract new investments.

We have also been advocating with the federal government in Washington, D.C. to cut red tape and allow more freedom to market and use higher ethanol blends.  Higher ethanol blends create more demand for our fuels and commodity inputs.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the key regulator of biofuels at the federal level.  Over the last year, we have been one of the voices calling for year-round sales of E-15.  Right now, E-15 cannot be sold during the summer months, limiting our ability to market more of our ethanol product.  I recently met with acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to underscore the urgency behind approving E-15 sales all year long.  I also have a request into the EPA for a pilot program to test high ethanol blends like E-25 and E-30 in the Nebraska state government fleet.  I have already directed state agencies to order flex fuel vehicles when possible and other vehicles must be compatible with E-15.  The state has also switched over one of our main fuel pumps from E-10 to E-15, and we also have E-85 available.  We want the opportunity to consume more of the great fuel produced right here in Nebraska.

This month, I submitted testimony on the latest round of biofuels production levels being set by the EPA.  My administration will continue to urge the EPA to maintain a robust commitment to biofuels, so the next generation of farm families has the predictability they need to grow agriculture and grow Nebraska.  If you have suggestions on how we can expand ethanol in Nebraska, I hope you will write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.

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.