Nebraska beef is heading to Israel for the first time in 13 years as state officials say increased trade is the surest way to pick up the sagging agricultural economy.
State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach helped load the first shipment of kosher beef to Israel at WR Reserve, a beef processing company in Hastings.
“Now we’re opening a new market and we’re excited about the opportunity to be able to grow that demand over time,” Ibach tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Ibach joined Lt. Governor Mike Foley in Hastings to highlight the fact that WR Reserve is the only Israeli-approved kosher beef facility in the United States. The company plans a $4.5 million expansion and has plans to add 100 more workers.
It will take 200-head of cattle a week to fill orders from Israel.
Ibach sees such value-added exports as a key to raising commodity prices which will help a slumping agricultural economy.
“So that’s part of the concept, is adding value to the basic commodities that we grow,” according to Ibach. “So, we’ll continue to work to market value-added products as well as look for opportunities to send commodity shipments as well.”
The order traveling from Nebraska to Israel is the first shipment of beef to Israel since the country banned U.S. beef imports when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, was confirmed in Washington State in 2003.
The USDA says Israel imported $433 million in beef products last year, with most coming from South America.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]