The U.S. Meat Export Federation's Japan Relief and Recovery Effort continues to help victims of the March earthquake and tsunami. A delegation representing Nebraska's beef, soybean and corn industries were recently in Japan where they witnessed the devastation. Bill Luckey of the Nebraska Soybean Board says it really opens your eyes. You realize that even though the story is out of the media, it's still affecting a lot of people. The effects are long lasting and they're still going to need help.
While in Japan the groups got a closer look at their Japanese customers. Bill Rhea of the Nebraska beef industry was struck by the growth opportunity for U.S. beef in Japan. He says the potential for U.S. beef is enormous, they just need to figure out how to get enough product there.
Curt Tomasevicz, a U.S. Olympic bobsledder who accompanied the Nebraska Corn delegation, says he found it amazing how the grocery stores aggressively marketed their beef through special promotions and tasting demos in the store. John Willoughby, part of the Nebraska Corn team noted they saw women feeding their children U.S. beef so we know it is a trusted protein source in Japan.
"In the coastal cities affected by the tsunami, it wasn’t just their houses that were taken away, but their livelihood,” said Bill Schuster, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board delegation who serves as chairman of the Aurora Cooperative Board of Directors. “Since many of these people were in the fishing industry, it will take time to redevelop the industry in these areas until infrastructure is redeveloped."
Rhea also returned from his trip to the devastated regions of northeastern Japan with both a healthy respect for the power of nature as well as an appreciation for the impact that USMEF’s Relief and Recovery Effort is having.
“The older people I spoke with (at the evacuation centers) were very appreciative for what we’re doing there through USMEF,” Rhea said. “That is the hardest group to influence and to get to switch their loyalty (to U.S. beef). I believe that beyond the immediate help it’s providing, this program will be good for us down the road.”
The return on investment for checkoff and USDA Market Access Program dollars utilized in Japan through USMEF also got high marks from the Nebraska contingent.