Trade team connects U.S. corn farmers with end users in Japan

Team travel included visits to local corn farms, elevators, ethanol plants and universities.

Seven feed millers and one swine producer from different parts of Japan, each relatively new to their industries, recently participated in a trade team visit to Iowa and South Dakota in October organized by the U.S. Grains Council's (USGC) office in Japan.

The team traveled to the U.S. to visit with local corn farmers, elevators, ethanol plants and universities to learn more about U.S. corn and ethanol industries. Additionally, the team learned about the current market and trends for dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), the economic and nutritional value of DDGS and how to best utilize DDGS in swine nutrition.

“Each farmer was passionate about providing the best product possible, using this opportunity as a learning experience for themselves as well,” Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan, said of the team's visit. “Many of the farmers also fed DDGS to their own livestock, helping drive home that DDGS is a good-quality, well-priced alternative.”

At the farms, the team also observed different management systems and practices that showcased the diverse dynamics of terrain across the U.S. The team was impressed with the modern equipment, on-site storage and drying, as well as the technological innovations occurring on water quality and soil health, according to USGC.

“We appreciated the opportunity to look at the soil and understand those farmers’ efforts on soil health,” Hamamoto said. “The team was particularly impressed by the soil in northwest Iowa and how farmers work to maintain soil condition through erosion prevention, nutrition and moisture control and recycling nitrogen through manure utilization.”

Japan, the second-largest buyer of U.S. corn in 2016-17, increased imports nearly 30% year over year to 13.5 million metric tons (nearly 533 million bu.), the highest level since 2009-10. Japan also imported 428,000 metric tons of U.S. DDGS in 2016-17, a 45% increase from the previous year.

Trade team visits like the one in October help reinforce the appreciation U.S. farmers and agribusinesses have for the long-standing relationship with this important trading partner, USGC said.

“The team members bring what they learned back to their companies and mills to share them with other technical officials to increase use in Japan,” Hamamoto said. “This tour was an important part of the continuous effort by the council to educate members of the Japanese feed and livestock sectors on the U.S. corn and ethanol industries.”

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