Nebraska businesses operate in a global marketplace. In 2009 Nebraska companies exported $4.8 billion in products, with businesses in Canada, Mexico, Japan and China our leading customers. When I traveled to Asia in 2007, I was amazed by the opportunities for our state's businesses. I came away convinced that with targeted outreach and collaboration, Nebraska could continue to increase its share of the global marketplace.
Since that time, there have been numerous activities associated with trade development in our state. I want to focus on an example that occurred just this week. A small team of representatives from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spent four days in Beijing, China, in discussions designed to grow the market for Nebraska dry edible beans.
Nebraska is one of the leading states for dry edible bean production, with much of the production and processing located in the Panhandle. The Nebraska Dry Bean Commission recently has set its focus on broadening its global market share, in an effort to provide some price stability.
China was targeted for action by the Dry Bean Commission because it is both a competitor in dry bean production, as well as a growth market for consumption. The focus of the visit was on educating key government officials and business representatives about the nutritional value of dry edible beans and opportunities to expand their usage in the Chinese diet. The decision to move ahead with this visit was made after detailed discussions with a number of partners, including the United States Department of Agriculture, about the best opportunities for growing dry edible bean markets.
While in China this week, the group met with representatives of the Food Science and Technology Institute, which is a government organization that has some responsibility for looking at new ways of processing agricultural products, like dry edible beans. They also met with the Chinese Nutrition Institute, an organization that is working toward improving the diets of China's citizens.
Another appointment was with officials at Masterkong, the largest manufacturer of popular instant noodle cups. The goal was to educate the company on the value of incorporating dry edible beans into their products. This would increase the nutritional value while opening a new marketing outlet for the beans. The group also met with influential agencies within the Chinese Central Government that have direct authority over dry bean supply management.
The Nebraska team was lead by Agriculture Director Greg Ibach. Others included Dr. Linda Boeckner, who is the Director of UNL's Panhandle Research Center and a registered dietitian; Leo Hoehn, who is a dry bean processor and member of the Dry Bean Commission; Stan Garbacz, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture international trade representative and Lynn Reuter, executive secretary of the Dry Bean Commission. The group was small. Each participant contributed significantly to the overall base of knowledge needed for discussions.
I am highlighting this trade visit because it represents the collaborative, targeted effort that is important for Nebraska to maintain its competitiveness in an ever-growing, global marketplace. We must expand our outreach and look at our trade partners in new ways if we want to continue to grow our economy.