KOFU, JAPAN – 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, was commemorated on April 8 in Japan. 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 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was on hand during the celebration. "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."

Mr. Vilsack's started the day-long celebration 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.

Once they arrived 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 visiting the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Mr. 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.

Mr. Vilsack spoke at a ceremony later that afternoon and discussed how the anniversary encapsulates the friendship and mutually beneficial relationship the U.S. and Japan have enjoyed over many decades.

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 meat, soybeans, feeds and fodders and processed fruits and vegetables.