Based on an interview by Renee Pflughaupt
Every year, Nebraska produces more agricultural products than it can consume. Those excess products are sold outside the state, creating the strong agricultural economy Nebraska enjoys.
"We really produce a lot of agricultural products... and we need an outlet for them," said Stan Garbacz, agricultural trade representative for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Nebraska produces and exports a great variety of products, including grains, livestock genetics, beef, pork, ethanol, distiller's grain and a wide spectrum of food products.
"We're always trying to find ways of selling those products to existing markets to increase the demand there, or try and find new markets," he added.
Nebraska's products are the best, he said. "We raise the best corn. The grains have a lot of deep, rich soils to grow in. And we have an unbelievable water supply," he said. That water supply allows for irrigation of crops, which make Nebraska's ag products especially high-quality.
"Our products are very, very good because of natural resources and because of our people," he said. "Our people are very hardworking; they really care about what they do."
Matching products with needs
Nebraska consumes only a small percentage of what it produces, he said. Much of the food produced in Nebraska is consumed in the United States, but about a third is exported internationally. Garbacz focuses entirely on international efforts to match Nebraska's products with global markets.
People in the greatest need sometimes get that way because they don't know where to go for the products they need, Garbacz said. He travels to countries around the world, visiting with people to help determine what they need and how Nebraska can provide the products.
Global needs exist for a variety of reasons, Garbacz said. In many other countries, much of the agricultural land is being taken over by commercial interests, leaving less land for farming. "We've been fortunate (here) that we have kind of held our own," he said.
Specific preferences, often cultural or religious in nature, also affect global needs. For example, a number of years ago European leaders decided they would not allow imports of beef that came from animals that were implanted with growth hormones, Garbacz said. However, as the European population grew and commercial establishments took over Europe's farm ground, European producers couldn't raise enough cattle or enough grain to feed the cattle. They also have had difficulty finding enough products to import that are not genetically-modified, Garbacz explained. (Genetic modification technology has been used by plant and animal breeders for thousands of years to improve productivity, quality or performance, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.)
Nebraska's producers, with the help of research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and from private industry, have been able to raise cattle without hormones to meet European preferences and sell to that market. It's more expensive, Garbacz said, but it provides the food they need.
"We're not trying to create any products that are going to be harmful," Garbacz said. "We're trying to create products that will enable us to feed the world."
The University of Nebraska and the State of Nebraska, along with private businesses, are working together to create trade opportunities for the state's agricultural products, he said. This includes continuing to work with new and existing clients and creating new products to market and export.
"We have to work with what we're dealt," Garbacz said. Only by knowing what a customer wants, he added, can any beneficial transaction take place.
Edging into Asia's markets
Nebraska's customers in Asia, for example, have rapidly-growing populations, expanding middle classes and a desire for- and ability to pay for- higher-quality food products.
One of those higher-quality food products, Garbacz said, is meat. These developing countries, he said, are consuming a lot of beef and pork. These are very promising markets, he added, for Nebraska livestock and genetics. Still, Garbacz must work with each country's preferences and laws regarding imports of meats and other products.
Garbacz said with each country, he determines what can be imported and by whom, and how to get the people in the country to desire a particular product. There is paperwork required to arrange for logistics of transporting the product to its destination, whether by truck, train, air or ship. Once the product is there, the proper documentation must be provided- the paperwork- for the product to be accepted into the country of destination.
Regardless of the restrictions a country places on international imports, Garbacz said he and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture find products that each country wants and works with producers to supply those needs.
New products for new markets
Many of those products, Garbacz said, have been created with the help of the University of Nebraska research.
The list includes: raising cattle with few or no hormones; growing feed that eliminates E. coli; developing new methods of food packaging and processing; and creating new food products using dry edible beans, which are grown in western Nebraska.
The university's work in crop hybrids, he said, will be crucial for maximizing the efficiency of available farmland worldwide. "The university is working towards overcoming whatever issues we're having in additional markets for our products," Garbacz said.
Ask anyone in international agriculture, Garbacz said, and they know about the University of Nebraska and the groundbreaking agricultural research it conducts. The innovation happening here, he said, is something Nebraskans take for granted.
"We just assume that's how things work," Garbacz said. "And it doesn't work that way in other countries."
New IANR-Nebraska Department of Agriculture Office in Beijing
On June 11, 2012, the UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources opened an office in Beijing, China, within the Development and Exchange Center of the State Grain Administration (DEC-SAG). The office was opened in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and with Mitex, a private Hong Kong company.
The office, Garbacz said, will allow the State of Nebraska to continue to build trade relationships and find agribusiness opportunities in China for Nebraska companies. For the University of Nebraska, the office will create partnerships that will work toward solving the challenges related to food and natural resource security. It also will promote faculty and student exchanges between UNL and China.
The partnership, Garbacz said, means "our Chinese partners will introduce us as part of them. And then, at that point, we have credibility that we didn't have before."
A Message From:
Facing the Global Food Challenge
A Place Without Limits: NU's Leading Role in Ag Innovation - J.B. Milliken
"Ag is Sexy Again" as Global Need for Food Increases- Ronnie Green
"Failure is Not an Option" in Addressing Global Food Scarcity- Archie Clutter
Dickey Reflects on Years as Dean of Extension- Elbert Dickey
Food Scarcity Information Dissemination Complex, Vital- Karen Cannon
Technology and Food
Nebraska- the Food Capital of the World?- Rolando Flores
Is a Fully-Sustainable World Within Reach?- Mark Burbach
Agricultural Efficiency Sustains Resources, Produces More- Roch Gaussoin
Technology, Teamwork and Stewardship Vital in Meeting 2050 Global Food Need- P. Stephen Baenziger
Protein Production Essential in Feeding the World- Matt Spangler
Nebraska's Irrigation Research Goes Global- William Kranz
The Plight of the Honey Bee- Marion Ellis
Society's Health Reflects Changing Food Culture- Georgia Jones and Marilynn Schnepf
Steps to Building a Healthier World- Jean Ann Fischer
Economics of Food
Ag Economists- Working to Assure Abundant, Safe Food- Larry Van Tassell
Global Food Scarcity, Distribution, Roadblocks- Dennis Conley
Global Economics Research Explains Food Scarcity Challenges- Lilyan Fulginiti
World Food Supply Adequate, but Poverty is the Problem- Wes Peterson
Ag Land Reflects Value of Growing Food for the Future- Bruce Johnson
A Land of Plenty- Exporting to the World Stan Garbacz- Stan Garbacz