Two former Secretaries of Agriculture, Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns and former Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman, have voiced their support for Japan’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership talks. In a recent editorial the two called Japan’s participation in the trade pact a potential “game-changer for US agriculture and good news for our country’s overall economy,” and urged other partner nations in the negotiations to join the US in welcoming Japan to the talks.
Glickman and Johanns have more in common than the top post at the US Department of Agriculture on their resumes; both represent(ed) states where farming is big business and Japan is the industry’s biggest customer.
In 2011 Nebraska exported nearly $600 million in agricultural products to Japan, accounting for 82% of its total exports to the country. In that year, Japan ranked 3rd as the Cornhusker State’s largest export partner (after Canada and Mexico), but number one in agriculture sales. Nebraska has made a concerted effort to get its products, particularly beef, onto Japanese dinner tables. The state’s first international trade office, Nebraska Center Japan, was established in Tokyo, and the governor has led two trade missions to the country since 2005.
Neighboring Kansas shares the same farming heritage, as well as Japan as its top purchaser of agricultural goods. It exported $417 million in farm products to Japan in 2011, with Congressman Glickman’s own 4th district alone accounting for $55 million of those sales.
Nationally, while Japan is the 3th largest customer for America’s agricultural products, the US is Japan’s largest supplier of imported foodstuffs. In 2011, 25% of Japan’s total agriculture imports came from American farms. Japan’s Ministry of Finance reports that the country purchased 1.3 trillion yen, or roughly $14 billion, worth of food from the US. Moreover, America was the leading provider of meat, cereals, and animal feed to Japan.
In their editorial, Johannes and Glickman note that this high volume of trade is “remarkable” considering a history of trade barriers on agricultural products. Both gentlemen hail from cattle country, and in their tenures as Secretary of Agriculture and in congress, both railed against Japan’s restrictions on US beef imports following fears over mad-cow disease over a decade ago.
The recent lifting of remaining restrictions was welcome news in Kansas and Nebraska. With this reopening of Japan’s beef market to US suppliers, cattle exports to Japan are expected to grow 45% this year alone. This affects more than the beef industry; corn and soybean farmers and other producers of feed for the herds expert to benefit as well.
This victory for their cattle constituencies is a primary reason why the former secretaries support Japan joining the TPP talks. As they explained, “The simple fact is that nations rarely reduce or eliminate tariffs unilaterally… trade limiting measures are usually reduced as part of trade negotiations.” Therefore in their view, the best way to open trade and get more American food products on the Japanese dinner table is to invite Japan to the negotiating table.
Kansas and Nebraska are just two states where agricultural sales to Japan impact US farmers. For the complete list of agriculture exports to Japan by US state, please visit our Data Page.