When an Israeli goes to the supermarket and wants to eat a great kosher steak, his or her best option, believe it or not, comes from the great state of Nebraska.
For the past several years, Nebraska beef has been happily consumed by Israelis. Beef shipped from the heartland of America to my homeland in Israel has helped grow Nebraska’s agricultural economy and has spurred expansion of other business opportunities between your state and mine. According to the meat company that ships out of Hastings, about 80,000 pounds of beef is shipped per week from Nebraska to Israel.
This initiative, among others, is a product of team work, perseverance and collaborations between business, civic and political leaders in Nebraska and Israel. Of course, we aren’t stopping with steaks; that is only the beginning. We are in the process of pursuing more win-win initiatives and partnerships. This is one of the reasons I visited Nebraska on April 10 and met with many decision makers and elected officials.
Last fall, 10 Israeli companies that develop innovative agricultural technology products, traveled to Nebraska to explore collaborative opportunities together with Valmont Industries. The Israeli companies were in Nebraska to participate in a groundbreaking summit focused on agricultural trade and agro-technology. Israel has found that both fields are critical components to achieving water sustainability worldwide.
Israel is a tiny country with a history of water shortages, and, out of necessity, those shortages led to innovative agricultural solutions. Nebraska, has a strong agricultural tradition and a vast area for growing it. After all, the state of Nebraska is about 10 times the size of the whole state of Israel!
The fall summit stemmed from last spring’s visit to Nebraska by Israel’s minister of agriculture. During that visit, the minister and I were welcomed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, state Agriculture Department representatives and others. We emphasized the importance of using technological solutions to overcome agriculture challenges, from water conservation to shortages in farm labor.
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This June, the president and CEO of Valmont Industries, Stephen Kaniewski, will be a keynote speaker at AgriIsrael 4.0, a customized boutique conference for mid-sized to large corporations who want to take advantage of Israel’s groundbreaking agritech sector. Additionally, representatives from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development will also be travelling to Israel for the June conference which will showcase companies that provide valuable tools that help farmers accurately manage growth.
The State of Israel sees the agriculture industry as pivotal. We also believe that innovation in this field is key to creating a sustainable future. Sharing this vision with Nebraska is our goal. As we have already seen, actionable items will benefit both of us. The fall summit and the minister of agriculture’s visit have culminated in developing global partnerships utilizing Midwest based technology and Israeli ingenuity.
Outside of the business world and into academia, during my visit to Nebraska, I toured the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Innovation Campus and explored ideas for collaboration. The University of Nebraska already offers Israel study-abroad programs for students to learn about water security and innovation.
As we establish and grow relationships with our partners at these educational institutions, we will develop and strengthen more programs and research opportunities that prove that together we are better and together we are stronger.
We strongly believe that both Nebraska and Israel can continue to work together to create products and services beneficial for both communities and have the potential to be groundbreaking worldwide. In addition to water and agriculture, we seek other potential fields for collaboration, such as cyber, high tech, biotech, Homeland Security and more.
While speaking at a reception with Nebraska’s superb senators, I extended an invitation to all Nebraska’s elected officials to come see Israel and the revolutionary innovations, beautiful beaches and vibrant and diverse society we have to offer.
As I have done with five other governors throughout the Midwest who accepted my invitation, I invited Gov. Ricketts to Israel. With a nonstop flight from Chicago to Tel Aviv starting soon, we hope the governor, elected officials, community leaders and Cornhuskers throughout the state will take advantage of the efficient and convenient way to travel.
As we approach the Passover and Easter holiday season, I am reassured that the ties that bind the U.S. and Israel are vital to each countries success. From the Holy Land to the Heartland, I extend my wishes for a happy and prosperous holiday spring season.
Aviv Ezra is the consul general of Israel to the Midwest, which includes Nebraska and eight other states. He lives in Chicago.