Nebraska sees increase in ag exports despite trade disputes

KEANREY, Neb. (KSNB) - The overall dollar value of Nebraska exports grew substantially last year, despite international trade issues.

The overall dollar value of Nebraska exports grew substantially last year, despite international trade issues. Corn is now the number one ag export in the sate. (Source, KSNB)

A new report from the Nebraska Farm Bureau shows Nebraska exported more than $6 billion worth of commodities in 2018. That makes Nebraska the sixth largest agricultural exporter in the country.

"It kind of surprised us a little bit, because of all the trade issues and trade problems that we're having with other countries," said Jay Rempe, senior economist with the Nebraska Farm Bureau. "Fortunately, some of our bigger markets for beef and corn, we've maintained good, friendly relationships with and we're able to see some increased exports there."

The Farm Bureau created the report based off information from the United States Department of Agriculture's trade data.

Their report shows Nebraska exports are up $450 million from 2017 to 2018, mostly because of corn and beef sales.

Corn exports are up 42 percent, increasing more than $400 million from 2017 to 2018.

Nebraska also tops the nation in beef exports, with an increase of more than $200 million in the same time frame. Although the per-unit value of beef is down from 2017, more sales with Japan and South Korea increased the value of Nebraska's beef exports to a record high of $1.3 billion in 2018.

Those bumps can be seen across the Tri-Cities as well, with Adams, Buffalo and Hall Counties each seeing around a $10 million increase in total ag export values from 2017 to 2018.

"You can see how those trickle back down and impact our local communities, and some of the changes that occur in terms of the value of the product of corn and beef. So I think it just reinforces that notion that we're a global market place, and things that happen overseas affect us too," Rempe said.

The one export with especially negative growth is soybeans, with a $300 million increase from 2017 to 2018. Soybeans were the top commodity in Nebraska for five years, but now come in third behind corn and beef.

People with the Farm Bureau tie that directly to poor trade relations with China, and China's imposed tariffs on U.S. soybeans.

Mark McHargue, a popcorn farmer in Central City, said he dealt with rising ground water from heavy rains this summer. He said that in turn caused him to produce a lower yield than normal.

McHargue said striking a new trade deal with China, and getting the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress, would be beneficial for him as a farmer.

"The rumors aren't really moving the market anymore, so we actually need action," McHargue said. "So USMCA is important for me as a farmer. The certainty that that would provide. Anything that can be done with China would be really important for our operation."

The president of the Farm Bureau said they're pushing the Trump Administration to end the trade war with China, and remove the tariffs placed on U.S. agricultural products.

He said they're also continuing efforts to find new trading partners, and will make getting the USMCA through Congress a top priority.