DENVER – Iowans have a special connection with Japan dating back more than 50 years. When two typhoons devastated the Japanese prefecture of Yamanashi in 1959, they helped rebuild the region’s hog industry by donating 35 hogs and 1,500 tons of corn.

After a devestating earthquake and tsunami rocked northeastern Japan this spring, the Iowa Pork Producers Association contributed $100,000 to the US Meat Export Federation Relief and Recovery Effort designed to help those most in need by providing displaced people with a hot, nutritious meal containing US pork.

Last week, USMEF provided IPPA members with an update on relief efforts in Japan funded by their contribution. IPPA contributions over the course of the spring and summer will provide hot meals for an estimated 30,000 people in the region most affected by the natural disaster, John Hinners, USMEF’s assistant vice president of industry relations, told the gathering.

IPPA contributions are supporting activities throughout the Tohoku region, including collaborative efforts with the Japanese Itoham Foods Company, which will provide an estimated 8,200 meals. Efforts are also being facilitated by USMEF with Takizawa Ham Company, restaurant chain Skylark, Minami Soma Schools and others. In one setting, USMEF partnered with Prima Ham and the 29ers non-profit organization to serve approximately 900 meals of US pork yakiniku (Korean-style barbecue) to evacuees in Iwate Prefecture who have been without hot meals with meat since the earthquake struck.

USMEF supported distributing 1,600 meals of ginger pork and pork miso soup for three days in May to people at three junior high schools in Miyagi Prefecture. Earlier in June, Iowa Pork’s contribution provided 500 meals of steamed pork to evacuees at a shelter in Kesennuma through a non-profit organization established by prominent Japanese television personality Kuniaki Shimizu.

“As the nation’s leader in pork production, we are proud to contribute to this relief effort,” said Leon Sheets, IPPA president and a pork producer from Ionia, Iowa. “The Japanese love Iowa pork, and the island nation is both a long-time trading partner and our largest customer based on value. We firmly believe that it is incumbent upon Iowa’s pork producers to help those in need.”

The National Pork Board has also committed $100,000, National Pork Producers Council donated $25,000, Minnesota Pork Producers Association has given $50,000, Indiana Pork has contributed $10,000 and Kentucky Pork Producers Association has given $1,000. Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Federation of State Beef Councils each have contributed $100,000 while the Washington Cattlemen’s Association auctioned off a heifer raising $18,000. In addition, individuals have contributed from $100 to $500 each.