A group of LEAD fellows from Nebraska recently returned from an international study and travel seminar to China, Laos, and Thailand, that lasted from January 6 to January 20. The program aimed to cultivate leaders in agriculture, one of the most important industries in Nebraska. The thirty fellows, most of whom currently work in agriculture related fields, began their trip in Beijing, China. Under the direction of the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, in cooperation with the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the seminar aimed to promote trade, environmental preservation, and sustainable business practices between the US and Asia.
Fellows met with local farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs, and government offices in each country. Stops included the Shanghai SUS Environment Company, the Agriculture and Forestry Office, and the Northern Agriculture and Forestry College near Luang Prabang, Laos. During the seminar, participants discussed US-Asia cooperation in agricultural business, marketing, and technology with local counterparts and officials. While visiting both established and potential future partners in Asia, fellows gained practical experiences to expand their skills.
This trip provided opportunities to understand not only agricultural issues but also culture, politics, and history in these countries and how they contribute to the US-Asia relationship. The group was briefed on local issues from the U.S. Embassy in each country and visited kindergarten classes as well as local markets in Shanghai, China. Additionally, they visited the COPE Center in Vientiane, Laos, which supports survivors of unexploded bomb incidents from the Vietnam War.
Asia has been an important trading partner with Nebraska. Asia’s share of Nebraska goods exports in 2012 made up 45%. In particular, agricultural products such as oilseed, grains, and meat products account for 80% of total state exports to Asia. China is Nebraska’s largest goods export destination in Asia, accounting for 43% of total exports to the continent and ASEAN takes third place. Furthermore, Asian markets are responsible for 52% of jobs from exports in Nebraska.
Jaichung Lee is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul.