September 19, 2014

Nebraska looking for even more markets in Asia (AUDIO)

As Nebraska works to strengthen its economic ties with Japan, state officials carefully watch negotiations which could further open a promising Asian market for Nebraska agricultural goods.

State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach says Asia already is a great market for Nebraska farm products, but if the Trans-Pacific Partnership wins approval, it would become even greater.

“We’re hoping to bring those tariffs that have been brought down in other trade agreements previously from high levels to moderate levels; we’re hoping now to see those drop to zero over time,” Ibach says.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious, 21st century trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).

The office says completion of the partnership could increase access to some of the fastest growing markets in the world.

Japan already ranks as the second largest market for Nebraska agricultural products. Nebraska exported more than $454 million in farm goods to Japan last year, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; $411 million in beef and pork exports.

Agricultural goods aren’t the only exports to Japan. Overall, Nebraska exported $566 million in goods to Japan last year, representing nearly eight percent of the total state merchandise exports.

Other Asian countries hold promising opportunity as well.

Ibach says all Nebraska farmers need are open markets.

“Being able to open those markets, to have our farmers and ranchers be able to compete worldwide at a fair level playing field. We feel like we will be able to be competitive on a price basis if we aren’t subject to tariff limitations.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Nebraska hopes conference will lead to increased trade with Japan (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman announces Nebraska will host Midwest US-Japan conference along with (L-R), State Ag Dir Greg Ibach, Melissa Ross with Oxbow Animal Health, and Acting Economic Development Dir. Dacia Kruse

Gov. Dave Heineman announces Nebraska will host Midwest US-Japan conference along with (L-R), State Ag Dir Greg Ibach, Melissa Ross with Oxbow Animal Health, and Acting Economic Development Dir. Dacia Kruse

Nebraska hosts the 50th annual Midwest US-Japan Association annual conference; in 2018.

Gov. Dave Heineman says the conference should spur Nebraska exports to Japan and Japanese investment in Nebraska.

“I’m especially gratified that we’re going to host the 50th,” Heineman tells reporters during an announcement. “Anniversaries like that tend to be a little more important. You may find more Japanese business leaders and American leaders who want to come, because it will be historic that we’ve been doing this for 50 years.”

Japan ranks as the second largest market for Nebraska agricultural products. Nebraska exported more than $454 million in farm goods to Japan last year, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; $411 million in beef and pork exports.

The Nebraska Center Japan opened in Tokyo in 2006 to strengthen the economic ties between Japan and Nebraska.

Oxbow Animal Health in rural Murdock began exporting its pet food and pet care products to Japan years ago, but Marketing Director Melissa Ross says once the state center was established, it greatly increased sales to Japan.

“Make sure that we’re doing business in a culturally sensitive manner and respecting their culture and it’s just been a tremendous asset to have those resources on the ground in Japan for us,” according to Ross.

Agricultural goods aren’t the only exports to Japan. Overall, Nebraska exported $566 million in goods to Japan last year, representing nearly eight percent of the total state merchandise exports.

Acting Economic Development Director Dacia Kruse says the state helped Vahallan Papers of Lincoln establish a foothold in Japan to sell its premium wallpaper and wall coverings.

Kruse says Vahallan also participated in the STEP program and used its grant to attend two major trade shows in the United States.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Survey: 90% of Nebraska’s job market “stable” for 4th quarter

An upbeat job market is expected in Nebraska during the final three months of the year, according to a new survey. Manpower Incorporated spokeswoman Karen Miller says an overwhelming majority of employers polled in the state were optimistic.

“We’re excited to see 21% of employers are looking to add staff for this October through December timeline with 69% looking to maintain their current workforce,” Miller says. “Really, we’re looking at about 90% stability.”

The survey found 7% of employers in Nebraska planned reductions in staff during the fourth quarter. That’s a jump up from just 2% of employers who planned cuts during the third quarter, which Miller says isn’t a big surprise.

Miller says, “Coming to the end of the year, we also have an election happening this fall, in November, so employers tend to be a little bit more conservative in Q4 than they are the other months out of the year.”

She says Nebraska’s job market is looking better than the nationwide outlook. Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed in the U.S., Manpower found 19% expect to add to their workforces, while 7% expect a decline in their payrolls between October and December.

Radio Shack, with 30 Nebraska stores, faces bankruptcy

RSlogoAn electronics store chain that was once very popular in Nebraska may soon vanish — or at least become more scarce.

Officials at Radio Shack are talking with lenders, bond holders, shareholders and landlords as they work to fix the balance sheet.

The company may need to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization depending on the outcome of those talks.

Radio Shack has more than 30 stores in Nebraska. If the company can’t get into the black ink, it will likely file what’s called a pre-packaged bankruptcy.

The company has been cutting costs, closing stores and shuffling management, but still reported another quarterly loss on Thursday.

 

Farmers see fallout from financial collapse of Pierce Elevator

It appears several dozen Nebraska farmers, perhaps as many as 200, will be left holding the bag as nearly $2-million was not paid by the failed Pierce Elevator when it closed earlier this year.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission denied the claims. John Fecht, who heads the PSC’s Grain Division, says those who were denied didn’t meet the timing requirement under the law for payment.

“Because the elevator closed on March 4th, when you go back 30 days, anything within that time frame coming forward will meet that requirement and get paid,” Fecht says. “They’re in that nine-cent on the dollar range. Anything outside of that is zero, they’re not going to get paid.”

Fecht says the rules are different for warehouse and dealer transactions.

“The only thing is, if you’re truly a storage customer, you’d get payment and if you have checks issued within five business days of closing, so five business days from March 4th going back, those checks all come back in as a storage obligation as well,” Fecht says. “Any checks issued beyond five days aren’t covered.”

Fecht says he thinks the PSC needs to come together and work with the chairman of the Nebraska Senate Ag Committee to try and come up with some solutions for lawmakers to consider that would better protect farmers from these types of situations.

“Anytime you’ve got losses of this magnitude, I think you need to reevaluate where you’re at and can any changes be made, any meaningful changes,” Fecht says. “Our commission asked the same thing at our meeting last Wednesday when this order was presented. I said we need to talk here in the next couple of months and put some ideas on the table.”

Those who stored grain at the Pierce Elevator will get paid in full while those who contracted to sell grain to the closed elevator or paid to buy undelivered grain will get less than a dime on the dollar — or nothing at all. The elevator closed when its credit was cancelled by the Citizen’s State Bank of Laurel.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton