If you don't toot your own horn, who will? That idiom applies to Nebraska crop and livestock commodities and those who produce them.
In the past several months, more and more Nebraska producers seem to be taking part in marketing their commodities by way of international trade missions, to countries like Turkey, Cuba, China, Taiwan, Japan and many others.
That's a good deal for the state's economy and agriculture alike, considering we export close to 30% of our grains and soybeans and 15% of our beef and pork products.
I remember in my early days at Nebraska Farmer a farmer who came to our office every month it seemed to speak with the editor at the time. He was always upset that certain checkoff board members were traveling overseas on what he considered "junkets" and in the process "wasting checkoff dollars."
He failed to see that market development is a crucial component of Nebraska agriculture and commodity checkoff programs. Checkoff board members as well as farmers on grower associations need to meet their foreign customers, whether their farmers, governments or third-party buyers, to learn how their commodities are processed and consumed. They need to know what their customers want in terms of grain quality and supply.
It's a competitive ag trade market out there, with other exporting countries desiring the same export destinations as our commodities.
"In a business that works with international customers, as we do in Nebraska agriculture, the importance of building direct relationships can't be overstated," says Stan Garbacz, ag trade representative at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. "Our customers appreciate making a personal connection with the people that do the actual work to raise the products they are buying. That direct relationship reinforces our message of quality and consistency in product. In addition, our farmers and ranchers benefit from traveling to other countries by experiencing firsthand the product need, use, handling, processing and distribution systems that the country is faced with. In most cases, that is a very eye-opening experience for our producers."