LINCOLN — June is Dairy Month in Nebraska, which means we are celebrating our great dairy farmers and a key part of our agriculture economy. In Nebraska, dairy is a growing segment of agriculture with dairy cow numbers up 15 percent since 2014. The Nebraska Dairy Association, Midwest Dairy Association, and I kicked off the month with a “Moo at the Zoo” event at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, and this week I will be traveling to three dairy operations to highlight the innovation we are seeing here in Nebraska.
As Governor, I have made growing agriculture, including dairy farming, the centerpiece of my “grow Nebraska” vision. Working with people across the state, we have been growing agriculture by expanding trade, encouraging livestock development, and promoting biofuels. Through these efforts, we are creating more opportunities for our farm and ranch families as well as growing job opportunities in communities across our state.
Trade is a critically important part of creating demand for our quality beef, corn, soybeans, and other agriculture products, including dairy. With 95 percent of the world’s population beyond America’s borders, trade missions help raise Nebraska’s profile and open new markets for these products. As Governor, I have led international trade missions to China, Japan, the European Union, and Canada. On these trade missions, we have created new partnerships, recruited new investments, and supported the opening of markets. These trade missions are effective because they allow our farmers to share the story of Nebraska agriculture firsthand with prospective customers.
This August, I will be leading a trade mission to Mexico with a focus on agriculture. In 2016, Nebraska’s total agricultural exports to Mexico totaled nearly $1 billion. They are our second-largest overall agriculture export market and our largest export market for dairy products. This trade mission will allow us to thank Mexico for being a great partner and help create more opportunities for our relationship to grow.
Along with our trade missions, I have promoted opportunities to add value to our existing agriculture production through livestock. Diversifying by adding livestock into existing operations creates more opportunities for the next generation of family farmers as well as in-state markets for our corn and other grains grown here. Companies like Costco, Hendrix Genetics, and Cargill have all invested in livestock development over the last couple years.
Working with the Legislature, we have assembled a variety of tools to promote livestock development in Nebraska. One of these is the Livestock Friendly County designation. 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. There are 45 Livestock Friendly Counties in Nebraska today. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) has also developed a Livestock Siting Assessment Matrix. The matrix creates greater predictability for producers as they work with counties to site new livestock production. NDA has also pulled together a team to help attract new dairy processers, so Nebraska can process more of the milk we produce in state.
Finally, promoting biofuels is another pivotal part of growing agriculture. Here in Nebraska, biofuels are at the heart of the “Golden Triangle,” which consists of livestock, corn, and ethanol. Corn is a key feedstock for ethanol. Distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, is a high-quality feed for cattle. Additionally, ethanol helps power vehicles inside and outside of rural communities across our state and around the globe.
Nebraska is currently the second-largest producer of ethanol in the country. This homegrown industry supports over 1,300 jobs across the state at our 25 ethanol plants. About 90 percent of all fuel in Nebraska is blended with our locally-produced ethanol. Over the past few years, my team has been working with the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Ethanol Board, and others to expand flex fuel pumps across the state. Last month, we celebrated Renewable Fuels Month by cutting the ribbon on new flex fuel pumps at the Bosselman Travel Center in Grand Island. These new pumps will bring millions of gallons of biofuels to Nebraska’s motorists and grow demand for our locally-produced ethanol products.
As you can see, agriculture is key to growing opportunity across Nebraska. Working together, we will continue to strengthen the future of agriculture for Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. We cannot do this alone – it is a team effort. Please call my office at 402-471-2244 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas on how we can continue to work to keep Nebraska agriculture strong and growing.
— Governor Pete Ricketts
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