The news from Japan continues to come in and we learn more and more about what it will take to heal the place and the people in the areas devastated first by the tsunami and other areas impacted by the reactor at Fukushima. Throughout all of this, I have watched news coming in both in mainstream channels and have been very interested in the impact on farmers and agricultural production.
Following are some of the highlights I’ve picked up in the past week or so, ranging from a farmer’s reply to international ag journalists who visited him a few years ago to programs put together to offer support.
Checking in on Dairy Farmer Yoshiyuki Hanzawa of Marumori, Miyagi, Japan
In 2007, the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists which includes the American Agricultural Editors Association (an organization of which I am a long-time member) met in Japan. At that time, a tour went to several areas farms, including the Miyagi dairy farm Yoshiyuki Hanzawa.
Mr. Hanzawa (Hanzawasan) was the face that many ag journalists immediately pictured. And although he is dealing with a number of complications, he was willing to respond to questions in late March and IFAJ country lead Masaru Yamada has provided that to IFAJ members. The text comes from that electronic reply Yamada provides based on talking to Hanzawa and others.
- Hanzawa’s farm is 60 km (~37 miles) from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.It’s in a valley about 10 km (~3.5 miles) from the sea.
- Hanzawa said the natural disasters — earthquake & tsunami did not cause serious damage to his farm. He has worried about radiation and as of March 23, had no specific impact info.
- He is worried about the path forward because even though he’s unsure of impact that the radiation on the milk, he has no transportation, etc to get products to market even if it is safe.
- Looking at the ag industry in Sendai and Miyagi prefectures, Yamada says “I believe they are going to see very significant damage. A direct damage caused by the Tsunami and quake was severe in some parts of the prefecture along with Iwate, and Fukushima, but the total amount of damage is limited if you compare it to damage we are going to see.
“Now media report in this country is heavily concentrate on safety of food, because radiation levels from several crops including spinach, some other vegetables, and milk from the area are much higher than regulation standards. Some are several hundreds higher.
“It scares consumers. Farmers in the area, I mean not only the surrounding area of the plant, but also wide area of the Northeastern Japan are afraid of consumers’ reaction to their produce. It is spring, and farmers are preparing to for planting vegetables, rice, and other stuff.”
- When asked about the most important thing for farmers in Sendai area and in Miyagi prefecture, Yamada pointed back to the previous answer saying “As I wrote above, consumer reaction is vital for the future of the Japanese agriculture. Not only Sendai, or Miyagi, but also whole Japanese farmers are in a very difficult situation. The key is to how we can persuade consumers to think this scientifically”
Farmers & Farm Groups Send Food & Feed
With all the issues farmers like Hanzawa face now and are likely to face, there are numerous efforts being undertaken to assist. The IFAJ has a fundraising effort underway and several people and groups including the Ag Relations Council are joining.
Those donations have the ability to help but I love some of the creative ways farmers are participating. And I really got jazzed up when I saw this headline:
Farmers can donate grain to Red Cross, help those in need following earthquake, tsunami.
Farmers can donate bushels of corn or any grain to the Red Cross and directly help those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Pacific thanks to a program developed by the Nebraska Corn Growers Associaion, Aurora Cooperative and the American Red Cross. KRVN is also supporting the initiative.
Donations are being accepted to Aurora Cooperative locations in Keene, Sedan and Aurora West (near Aurora) in Nebraska beginning Friday, April 1 and all other cooperative locations beginning April 2. Donations will continue to be accepted through July 30.
The National Pork Board also stepped up quickly announcing Japan Operation Tomadachi or Operation Friendship, according to Conley Nelson, a member of the NPB and a pork producer from Iowa.
“The NPB was one of the first groups to donate, allocating $100,000 from Pork Checkoff to purchase pork products and distribute them in Japan, to a program established March 16 by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
“As the situation begins to stabilize, there still will be a dire need to feed these homeless families. To address this longer-term need, USMEF will serve as the umbrella for the U.S. red meat industry to pool its resources to provide food products to those Japanese residents who are in need. Food shortages are expected to last into the summer months,” the federation said in a news release announcing the Japan relief program.
A New Connection Through the Blog
When I wrote a recent post about what some of the #BlogChat community was doing for Japan, I guess a few folks took notice. One, Chris Barden of the Worldwide Farmers Exchange, left information that I’d like to share.
My organization, Worldwide Farmers Exchange, was established over fifty years ago to help rebuild Japan’s agriculture then. We are still here to help today. Our method of assistance is building skills and confidence in young agriculturalists by providing them with internships and training programs.
Last year people from forty different countries took advantage of our program. We offer paid internships and training programs with successful American agricultural businesses across the United States. Interns come for 12 months, receive free housing, medical insurance, individual support and a minimum stipend of $900 per month. The program is, in essence, free for the trainee and we receive zero tax dollars from the US government.
We can help displaced Japanese farmers with hosts here in the US and we are always looking for new host farms here in the US.
Please let me know how I can help with efforts to help Japan’s affected people.
The Outlook in Japan
The amount of hardship is still hard for me to imagine. Having been to Japan several times, I think of the country in the way I’ve seen it there. I was able to get incredible foods — both local and imported. We were able to travel around with amazing ease. And we have seen the amazing compassion the people there posses.
This series of disasters will also show us the resiliency and ability to focus on the future that is such a part of the Japanese psyche. Having seen crowds of children learning about the country’s history, which includes some fairly devastating years during and after World War II, with the kids flashing me peace signs, I know we will see the growth of great beauty from such disaster. And I want to be among the folks planting those seeds for recovery in Japan and other countries.
If you know of other ag projects I have missed, please fill me in.