Nebraska manufacturers look forward to end of trade disputes

KEARNEY – Trade disputes seem to be fading with new trade deals being announced. That isn’t just good news for Nebraska agriculture, but Nebraska manufacturing as well.

Chief Agri President/General Manager Mike Lewis says sales to foreign countries have a big impact on Chief Agri of Kearney.

“Trade, historically speaking, has represented upwards to 50% of our revenue. So, you can look at that pretty simply and say one out of every two jobs in central Nebraska for us can be dependent on exports; so, very important.”

Chief Agri, which began in 1961, is a division of Chief Industries of Grand Island. It makes grain storage and handling equipment, such as grain bins, grain dryers, and grain conditioning systems.

As trade disputes grew, tariffs went up.

Lewis says retaliatory tariffs, especially on steel, hit Chief Agri hard. Lewis says the business shifted some production to avoid the increased costs.

“Fortunately, we have some operations in Europe that we were able to place some focus on to help offset certain markets throughout the world. So, yeah, it’s definitely having an impact.”

Lewis says Chief Agri exports to more than 40 countries each year.

Trade concerns have eased a bit. New deals have been struck with Mexico and Canada. A trade deal has been reached with South Korea. Trade talks are underway with Japan.

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