Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey leaves Monday for a 10-day tour of Asia, touting Iowa-grown products in several countries. Northey says the delegation’s first destination is South Korea. “There’s always been issues with South Korea and meat,” Northey says. “They offer a great opportunity to be able to export more meat into South Korea, both beef and pork.” Northey says they’ll spend the bulk of the trip in Japan.

“There’s an event that was 50 years ago and this is what we’re celebrating, the 50th anniversary of the Yamanashi Pig Lift,” Northey says. “A couple of Iowa farmers got together and sent pigs to Japan because of their troubles that they had in agriculture at that time and really started a huge relationship with Japan and them buying our ag products.”

He says Japan is now the number-one buyer of U.S. ag products, including being the top buyer of pork and corn. Over the past 50 years, Northey says Japan has purchased 500-billion dollars worth of U.S. ag products. Northey says U.S. Ag Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack will also be part of the delegation.

Northey says, “His wife actually wrote a book based on this Yamanashi Pig Lift 50 years ago and I’m sure she’ll be probably as much of a celebrity there as he will be.” The delegation, including former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilack, will also make a stop in Vietnam.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City