Rancher Jay Wolf of Bartlett, Nebraska, shows off some of his cattle. (Photo by Amy He/China Daily)
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was excited when he saw off the first shipment of U.S. beef products on a flight to a client in Shanghai on June 14. It came after a 14-year absence in the market, and Ricketts realized that it signaled a new era for his state's agricultural sector.
"Having a great market like China open up for us was really fantastic news for our ranchers here, and an incredibly exciting opportunity for our state," Ricketts said in an interview in his office on the day of that flight.
"If we can achieve the same sort of market share in China as we've achieved in other countries, that could mean a potential 20 percent increase in the exports of beef from Nebraska, potentially [adding] another 0 million to the economy for us," the governor said. "This is a big deal for us."
That first test shipment to China from Greater Omaha Packing Co, one of the biggest beef processors in the country, carried not only individually wrapped steaks－rib eyes, tenderloins and New York strips－but also represented a new opportunity for cattle ranchers across the Cornhusker State and other beef-producing states in the United States.
China's lifting of a ban imposed on U.S. beef imports in 2003－because of a case of mad cow disease－fulfills one of the achievements of a Sino-U.S. 100-day action plan, which was reached by President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting in Florida in April.
During the meeting, Xi and Trump agreed to establish new bilateral mechanisms, including a comprehensive economic dialogue and initiate a 100-day economic cooperation plan, regarded as win-win moves by experts. In May the two countries announced initial results in areas like agriculture, electronic payments, financial services and energy, and proposed that China begin importing U.S. beef no later than July 16, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce release dated May 11.
Agriculture is the biggest economic driver in Nebraska, and beef exports are its biggest segment. With 18 percent of all beef exported from the U.S. coming from the Midwestern U.S. state, it is the country's No 1 beef and beef product exporter, creating .1 billion for the state.
Seeing the first beef shipment sent to China was "extremely exciting for the 1,150 people who work at Greater Omaha", said Henry Davis, president and chief executive of the company. "It solidified that we're able to sell beef in any market around the world and meet everyone's requirements."
Angelo Fili, executive vice-president at Greater Omaha, said China became the company's 69th export country this year, and though the market consumes much less beef than others－around 8 pounds of beef and veal are consumed per capita, compared with 54 pounds in the U.S., according to the Omaha Economic Development Corporation－any opportunity to increase that figure, even minimally, represents a positive for the industry.