WASHINGTON – From April 5 thru 9, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be in Japan promoting U.S. agricultural products as part of the U.S. administration’s efforts to expand U.S. exports. Mr. Vilsack plans to meet with Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Hirotaka Akamatsu, as well as U.S. exporters and Japanese importers.

"We are determined to increase export opportunities for our farmers and ranchers," Mr. Vilsack said. "My mission on this trip will be to continue to push hard to open markets and to bolster an open, rules-based international trading system that will benefit both consumers and our farmers and ranchers, who supply agricultural products around the world."

Mr. Vilsack will travel by train to Yamanashi on April 8 to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of a 1959 'hog lift' when Iowa farmers sent 36 hogs to Yamanashi after Japan suffered major livestock losses caused by two typhoons. Three years later, the original 36 hogs had multiplied to more than 500. Iowa and Yamanashi established a sister-state relationship after the 'hog lift.' A delegation from Iowa will accompany Mr. Vilsack to Yamanashi.

"The 'hog lift' symbolizes the start off a flourishing agricultural relationship," Mr. Vilsack said.

Japan is the U.S.’ third-largest export market with sales of more than $11 billion in FY2009. The top five U.S. agricultural commodities shipped there are coarse grains, red meats, soybeans, feeds and fodders and processed fruits and vegetables.