The Kansas Department of Agriculture set out to expand a beneficial trade market on a recent United States Department of Agriculture mission.

Two representatives from KDA embarked on the largest USDA-led trade mission in June. The state was represented by KDA Assistant Secretary Mary Soukup and Director of the KDA Agribusiness Development Division Chad Bontrager.

The mission’s purpose was to strengthen agricultural trade relationships between Kansas and Japan, as well as explore potential new markets. KDA hopes to grow trade with Japan, which has already become a large importer of Kansas goods. In 2017, Kansas exported nearly $723 million in agricultural products to Japan.

“Japan is an important partner for Kansas and the entire United States. This trip provided us an important opportunity to meet firsthand with leaders in government and with companies that rely on agricultural products in their businesses,” Soukup said in a press release. “It was exciting to see Kansas products being used and to explore opportunities to strengthen our relationship with Japan.”

In May, Gov. Jeff Colyer announced that the state would be rejoining the Midwest U.S. - Japan Association after meeting with the Japanese consulate in April. Japan has been Kansas agriculture’s number two trading partner since 2014.

“Kansas’ two biggest exports to Japan are beef and wheat, but in addition to conversations about these products, this trade mission included efforts to establish new relationships to increase exports of other products which are common exports to other countries, such as sorghum, corn, soybeans, etc.,” said Heather Lansdowne, KDA director of communications.

The trade mission delegation had the opportunity to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito and other MAFF leaders. In addition, they visited food and agriculture retail and processing operations to gain a better understanding of how U.S. agricultural products are used in Japan. They visited Glicopia Chiba Factory, Kikkoman Noda, Yamazaki Kobe and Kirin Beer Kobe.

Japan also serves as a large export market for the U.S. as a whole. The nation continues to be the top export market for U.S. beef.

“Japan is already a top market for U.S. farm and food products, but there are many new opportunities still waiting to be tapped there,” said Ted McKinney, USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign affairs. “Japan is an import-dependent economy and its 130 million consumers have a real affinity for U.S. food products because of their quality, affordability and safety. I’m eager to return to Japan and continue exploring all the ways we can grow U.S. agricultural exports there.”