Future Ag Challenges: Foreign Investors

The future of ag in Nebraska is bright according to speakers at this year's Governor's Ag Conference.

But they also say with increasing opportunities will come challenges Nebraska hasn't faced before.

John Doggett, Senior Lecturer of International Entrepreneurship, Management, and Sustainability and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, says by the end of this decade three-quarters of a billion people in India, Brazil, and China are expected to become middle class citizens.

He says that's good news for US ag since demand for food for those people will increase.

"The bad news is that when you have a local market that has one billion middle class consumers it means we're going to be facing, some time in the early next decade, competition," said Doggett, the keynote speaker at the conference.

Doggett predicts that consumers will become competitors, and Nebraska landowners will start to see more and more offers from wealthy foreign investors, especially from China.

"There is no question in my mind that this will happen, and I think what we have to do is to think about how to respond to that and it can't be by saying they can't buy," said Doggett. "We just have to think about it and come up with a policy to make it attractive for people to hold onto their land and not sell."

Though ag land values are already jumping, Doggett says these investors will likely offer even higher prices as China looks to control ag imports.

Governor Dave Heineman says he's not worried.

"I'm counting on American ingenuity, American innovation, and American efficiency in the market place and I'm very very confident that we can win there," he said.

Doggett says China has already made major land purchases in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Argentina. He says as of the end of 2009 there were over one million Chinese farmers producing on land in Africa.

Doggett says because of immigration laws, foreign owned land in Nebraska would likely be leased instead of filled with a foreign workforce.

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