Greater Omaha Packing

Business leaders and state officials, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, gathered in June to mark the first shipment of beef to China from Greater Omaha Packing Co. A report released earlier this month showed Nebraska beef exports grew 12 percent in 2017 while pork exports were up 20 percent.

Last year was a good one for livestock exports in Nebraska.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Global Agricultural Trade System, beef exports from the state increased 12 percent in 2017 over the previous year, while pork exports were up 20 percent.

Nebraska’s 2017 total beef exports were $1.26 billion, making it the largest beef exporting state in the U.S. for the second year in a row. It also was the fourth year in a row that the state had more than $1 billion in beef exports.

Earlier this month, the USDA reported that Nebraska had 6.8 million cattle at the start of 2018, up 5 percent over last year and the largest number since 1984. The report also showed that Nebraska was the top state for cattle on feed, with 2.8 million.

Total pork export value in 2017 was $479 million, ranking Nebraska fifth in the country.

“We are seeing steady gains in the beef trade and even larger gains in pork growth,” Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman said in a news release. "Consumers around the world expect high-quality ag products from Nebraska, and the increase in export numbers show that Nebraska producers are exceeding expectations.”

Among the factors that helped boost exports last year were strong economic conditions in Nebraska's five biggest export nations — Canada, China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea — as well as China's decision to reopen its markets to U.S. beef imports.

Beef exports to China, while small, could present a big growth opportunity going forward. Nebraska exported $17.5 million in beef products to China in just more than six months, which was nearly 57 percent of the total amount exported from the United States.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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