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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hog story ties Iowa, Yamanashi

Staff writer

Tokyo and Washington are now locking horns over Japan's import restrictions on American beef, but when it comes to pork the story is a little bit different.

News photo
Once upon a time: Christie Vilsack, wife of visiting U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, reads from a book about a friendship between Iowa and Yamanashi for children at Akasaka Elementary School in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Christie Vilsack, wife of visiting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, read out a children's book for 72 Japanese youngsters Wednesday in Tokyo to deepen relations between the state of Iowa and Yamanashi Prefecture, based on a true story involving hogs from 1959.

"Sweet Corn and Sushi" is the story of Iowan farmers who donated 35 hogs to livestock farmers in Yamanashi after a typhoon devastated the area.

Dubbed "Hog Lift," the contribution laid the foundation for Iowa and Yamanashi in 1960 to form the first sister-state relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

"I wanted to make sure that other generations of Iowans and . . . of young people in Japan to know the story, because it's really important to share our story through generations," said Vilsack, a former first lady of Iowa, at Akasaka Elementary School in Minato Ward.

The bilingual book in English and Japanese was written by Lori Erickson. Yukio Hattori, head of Hattori Nutrition College, also attended the event to read the book in Japanese.

Vilsack said she helped raise the money to publish the book and gave copies to 40,000 families in Iowa.

"I'm surprised. I didn't know there was such a strong relationship between the two states," a girl in the sixth grade said after listening to the recital.

Another girl said: "I have learned about the tie between Iowa and Yamanashi. I've also learned the importance of helping each other."

The event was part of Partners in Agriculture, a program organized by Iowa and Yamanashi officials and other parties.

The program kicked off March 2 and features a series of events in Tokyo and Yamanashi through midsummer, according to the organizers.

"Lori (Erickson) and I came to Japan for the first time a little more than 10 years ago. Lori and I, when we were visiting Yamanashi Prefecture, heard the story of bringing the hogs to Yamanashi for the first time," Vilsack said.

"I think we both felt it was really important for the people in our state to know the story of friendship that developed through Iowa and Yamanashi," she said.

U.S. seeks food ties

Kyodo News

Japan and the United States need to cooperate further in addressing global food security, visiting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.

The two leading economies in the world have a "unique role," Vilsack told a symposium in Tokyo.

"I believe it's important . . . that we engage in bilateral opportunities to improve and advance global food security," he added.

The impact of the recent global economic downturn caused some 1 billion people in the world to suffer from malnutrition in 2009, he said, citing U.N. estimates. Although the number has been declining as world economic conditions have improved, the dire situation remains unresolved, he added.

Vilsack underscored that many countries have extended food and financial aid, including Japan and the United States. But he also said, "It's simply not just about money. It's . . . about having a strategy to approach this rather significant issue."

He said the world must recognize the need to focus on increasing the availability of food by improving productivity through such measures as technical assistance while investing in building infrastructure like roads that would make food more accessible to those who need it.

He said it is also an urgent task to make sure food is properly consumed, stressing there must be sufficient information for people to "maximize the potential of food that is available" with knowledge of refrigeration and cooking techniques.

During his stay in Japan, Vilsack will meet his counterpart, Hirotaka Akamatsu, on Thursday to talk about Japan's restrictions on U.S. beef imports over mad cow disease concerns.

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The Japan Times

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