USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today helped commemorate the 50th anniversary of a 1959 "hog lift" in which Iowa farmers sent 36 hogs to Yamanashi Prefecture after Japan suffered major livestock losses caused by two destructive typhoons. Three years later, the original 36 hogs had multiplied to more than 500.
"The sister-state friendship that was formed 50 years ago between Iowa and Yamanashi reminds us of the benefits of cooperation and trade," said Vilsack. "Being here today to celebrate that special relationship inspires us to continue working together for our mutual prosperity and economic health. I have emphasized this important point throughout my visit to Japan-we want our traditionally robust trade relationship to continue to grow and we will continue to work with our Japanese friends to make that happen."
Vilsack's participation in the day-long celebration began with a two-hour charter train ride from Shinjuku train station to Kofu with nearly 100 passengers on board, including an Iowa-Yamanashi sister-state delegation, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, U.S. trade groups and the media. A "friendship bento" box lunch was served featuring U.S. pork and other food ingredients from both countries to signify the U.S.-Japan agricultural relationship.
Upon arrival in Kofu, the Secretary and his delegation were greeted by local school children playing traditional Japanese taiko drums and Yamanashi Governor Shomei Yokouchi and other Prefecture officials. After briefly visiting the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Vilsack, Iowa Governor Bill Northey, U.S. Ambassador Roos and Yamanashi Governor Yokouchi ceremonially planted an oak tree-Iowa's official state tree-on the Museum's ground to recognize the longstanding friendship between the two states and countries.
Later that afternoon, Vilsack spoke at a ceremony and discussed how the 50th Anniversary encapsulates the friendship and mutually beneficial relationship that the United States and Japan have enjoyed over many decades. Festivities also included Vilsack co-presenting an award to the winner of the Yamanashi recipe contest.
Vilsack arrived in Tokyo, Japan, on April 6 to promote stronger ties between the United States and Japan in the area of agriculture, as part of President Obama's efforts to expand U.S. exports. While in Japan, Vilsack met with the Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Hirotaka Akamatsu, as well as U.S. exporters and Japanese importers.
A U.S. pork industry delegation is also in Japan to analyze the Japanese market in order to grow exports. The country is the leading export market in value terms for U.S. pork.
Vilsack gave a keynote address on April 7 at a Global Food Security Symposium sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council and met with Japanese university students at the American Embassy in Tokyo in a Town Hall meeting. Before returning to the United States on April 9, Vilsack will give a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.
Japan is the United States' third largest export market with sales of more than $11 billion in fiscal year 2009. The top five U.S. agricultural commodities shipped to Japan are coarse grains, red meats, soybeans, feeds and fodders and processed fruits and vegetables.