LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials have signed nine separate agreements with companies that will help promote the state's beef and pork products in Asia, state leaders on a trade mission said Tuesday.
Gov. Pete Ricketts and the state agricultural director said they have signed letters of intent in which companies and organizations agree to purchase Nebraska-made products. State officials and the Nebraska Beef Council will provide the companies with marketing materials, and participating restaurants may change their menu to highlight that their beef is produced in Nebraska.
Although the letters of intent aren't legally binding, Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said they're an affirmation from companies that Nebraska offers high-quality meat products. Similar agreements signed in the past have had "a long-lasting impact" and helped Nebraska producers expand their share of the Asian market, he said.
"I think that by signing something concrete, it solidifies that relationship," Ibach said in a phone conference as the delegation wrapped up its trade mission to China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Ricketts said the signing ceremonies may also have helped generate interest in the state's agricultural products.
"We've got people saying, 'If they're doing this for Nebraska beef,' maybe we should too,'" Ricketts said.
The trip included officials from the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, farmers and ranchers, local businesses and the University of Nebraska. On Tuesday, the group ate lunch at a Nebraska Steakhouse restaurant in Hong Kong to see how the state was promoted.
The trade mission follows news that Chinese officials plan to lift a 2003 ban on American beef.
Ricketts traveled to Europe in June 2015 to promote Nebraska's agricultural products in Italy, Belgium and Denmark. He also visited Japan and China in September 2015. Ricketts has said the trips are important, especially in Asia, because business leaders in those countries place a high value on building face-to-face relationships with their business partners.