A farmer harvests a field of dry, edible beans in Nebraska’s Panhandle. (Courtesy of Gary Stone)
LINCOLN — Nebraska’s dry bean growers are hoping to re-establish trade with the European Union now that a Trump-era, retaliatory tariff on agricultural products has been dropped.
A week-long trade mission to Bulgaria just concluded, with the leader of the trip, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, expressing confidence that trade with the European nations in dry beans will be re-established.
Nebraska produces about 1 billion servings of dry beans a year, and had shipped $3.2 million worth of beans to the European Union in 2019 before those shipments ended due to a 25% tariff on agricultural commodities. That tariff was imposed by the EU in retaliation for tariffs on European airplanes and agricultural goods established by then President Donald Trump.
Biden seeks to ease trade wars
The Biden administration resolved that conflict last year, leading to the end of the tariff on dry beans — a tariff that had made Nebraska dry beans uncompetitive.
Lynn Reuter, executive director of the Scottsbluff-based Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, said Tuesday that Bulgaria in particular is a prime consumer of Great White Northern beans produced in southwest Nebraska and the Panhandle.
“You can’t turn down any market the way the world market is now. You have to constantly be looking for new markets,” she said of the trade mission.
Evnen, in a press release, said that importers and processors the Nebraska trade group met in Bulgaria expressed an “immediate readiness” to establish trade for the state’s dry beans.
Beans have $151 million impact
Nebraska’s center-pivot irrigation and beef industries were also represented on the trade mission, which was funded in large part by the USDA’s “emerging markets” program, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Dry beans have a $151 million economic impact in the 20-county region of Nebraska where they grow, Reuter said. The state is the top producer of Great Northern beans in the United States and the No. 2 producer of pinto and light red kidney beans. she said.
Overall, Nebraska is the fourth largest producer of dry beans in the country.
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