MSGA executive director joins legislators, ag leaders in Japan

Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Joe Smentek has joined a Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA)-led business development mission to Japan from Sept. 8-15 to celebrate the rich history of trade and investment between Minnesota and Japan and identify new opportunities for growth in the agriculture industry.

The delegation is engaging with a number of Japanese agricultural businesses and will meet with USDA Agricultural Trade Office and Foreign Ag Service personnel.

“This has been a great opportunity to represent Minnesota Soybean and our ag community and talk about how production practices can lead to expand agricultural trade opportunities between Minnesota and Japan,” Smentek said.

MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek (right) visits with Gov. Tim Walz (middle) and MDA Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel during a business development mission in Japan.

During the trip, Smentek and colleagues have also visited with a Japanese green nitrogen company with hopes for collaborating with Minnesota Corn, Minnesota Farmers Union & the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute on projects to turn wastewater into carbon-free N fertilizer made in Minnesota.

“We’ve had a chance to talk about how Minnesota-grown products are produced through environmentally friendly practices,” he said.

Gov. Tim Walz, who will be in Japan simultaneously for the 2023 Midwest U.S.-Japan Conference, hosted delegation for a reception in Tokyo on Sept. 12 and a luncheon in Osaka on Sept. 14.

Japan is Minnesota’s fourth largest export market, representing 8% of Minnesota’s food and agricultural exports (2021), or $752 million. The country is also the fourth-largest consumer of whole U.S. soybeans: In 2022, Japan purchased about $1.6 billion worth of whole soybeans.

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