Japanese pork buyers curious about state

DODGE COUNTY, Minn. — A Japanese visitor to Bruce Schmoll’s farm gave his camera to a fellow traveler and climbed atop the tractor tire of Schmoll’s four-wheel-drive John Deere 8770.

He grinned from ear-to-ear and waved to the camera.

Such were the highlights of a Japanese trade delegation trip through Dodge County Aug. 9. The delegation of four plus an interpreter from the United States Meat Export Federation stopped at Schmoll’s farm outside Claremont, Interstate Mills feed mill in Hayfield and a custom pork operation in between.

They started their day at the Minnesota Soybean and Minnesota Pork offices in Mankato. Their eagerness to learn more about their host country put them behind on their schedule.

"It was our fault for getting behind in the first place because they asked so many questions," said Joel Schreurs of Tyler, a Minnesota Soybean Growers Association board member and co-chairman of the international marketing committee.


The group was almost 45 minutes late to the Schmoll farm and they left for Ames, Iowa, more than an hour later than planned.

No one seemed to mind the delay, instead they wanted more time to ask questions and look around.

At the Schmoll place, they sipped homemade wine while enjoying cheese and crackers on the back deck. From there, they walked through a wildlife area and past grape vines and Christmas trees. They waded into a soybean field where Schmoll searched for aphids to show them.

From the field, they went into his yard to see his machinery. He started John Deere 8770 for one to try steering the tractor and his John Deere 9570 STS combine for another to raise and lower the corn head.

Next, they made a quick stop at a custom hog finishing operation before stopping for lunch at the Oaks Bar and Grill.

At lunch, they reflected on what they'd seen so far, answering and asking questions.

They wanted to know exactly how Schmoll sprayed the aphids he showed them in the field and they discussed United States pork production.

In Japan, they said through interpreter Kato, hog farmers are nervous to raise hogs because of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak that occurred a couple years ago. Farmers will raise about a hundred hogs at a time in small isolated buildings.


Company operated hog farms, which are located north of Toyko, are about the size of the farm they visited, one said through the interpreter.

They wanted to know exactly how pork was raised in Minnesota and that discussion led into another on the price of pork.

Pork loins from the United States are 30 percent cheaper than domestic loin and the quality is similar, the Japanese said. United States tenderloin is 50 percent cheaper.

From lunch, it was a short trip to Hayfield where location manager Dave Santjer and feed mill manager Ken Langer led a tour of the feed mill.

Santjer pointed out the 1.1 million bushel bin, one of the world’s largest, and the conveyor moving grain across the street to the feed mill.

Inside the mill, they talked about how rations vary based on hog size, age and owner. They saw where micronutrients are precisely measured and saw samples of what the corn looks like after its been ground.

The Japanese marveled at how the mill produces 800 tons of feed a day, repeating 800 several times. The mill runs 18 to 20 hours a day, with two shifts, Santjer said. Feed is delivered to hog operations primarily within 80 miles of Hayfield.

Paul Simonsen of Fairfax, treasurer of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and co-chair of the international marketing committee, said the Japanese trip here is only part of their effort to establish relationships and increase trade with Japan.


It’s also important that Minnesotans go to Japan and show an interest in their business and culture, he said. It’s a two-way street to keep markets going.

Over time, a friendship develops. It’s not buying from Tyson, it’s buying from Paul, he said.

It’s relationships that turn this world, Schreurs said. It’s also very enjoyable to meet people from other countries and learn about their cultures.

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