Nebraska corn producers, as of early July, had donated about $61,000 to the American Red Cross as part of relief efforts in the earth quake and tsunami ravaged region of northern Japan, surpassing their original goal of $50,000.
Just days after the disaster, corn producer John Willoughby of Wood River, working with the Aurora Cooperative, came up with the donation idea. He and several other Nebraskans arrived in Japan in early July for a two-fold mission—1. to promote U.S. and Nebraska corn and beef and 2. to visit a portion of the Sendai region to view the aftermath of the devastation.
In that region, the Nebraska group took part in a Japan Relief Project, conducted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation office in Tokyo, to assist in distributing free meals to survivors.
"This trip makes our donation program more meaningful," Willoughby says. "Japan has been our top global corn customer for years and is a key market for many agriculture products produced in Nebraska and across the county. It seemed right to find a way to help our neighbors in the global market."
Bill Schuster of Phillips, farmer and chairman of the Aurora Cooperative, also took part in the corn/beef mission to Japan.
In the donation program, which continues through July 30, Nebraska producers donate corn to the Aurora Cooperative, which distributes the proceeds to the American Red Cross. Several of the co-op's locations are receiving corn. Grain can also be delivered to Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI) locations.
Wheat, soybeans and sorghum are also welcome.
The Nebraska Corn Growers Association is a major sponsor of the donation program, and the Nebraska Corn Board is a supporter.
Willoughby is a member of the Buffalo/Hall County Corn Growers Association, whose members provided much of the corn, although farmers outside that area also participated.
Others on the group were Kelsey Pope, ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Corn Board and Curt Tomasevicz, a Shelby, Neb., native who was a member of the Gold Medal winning United States team in the four-man bobsled event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Tomasevicz is contracted with the Corn Board as official spokesman for Nebraska corn and agriculture. Tomasevicz, who makes public appearances at such events as Husker Harvest Days, the Nebraska State Fair and county fairs, says Nebraska corn-fed beef is "as a great fuel for athletes."
Bill Rhea III, a cattle feeder from Arlington and director on the Nebraska Beef Council, and Don McCabe, Nebraska Farmer editor, also were in Japan as part of the mission.
The corn mission was hosted by the U.S. MEF while in Japan. "The Nebraska Corn Board works closely with MEF," says Pope. "It is important for us to show our support in Japan. Livestock is a major part of Nebraska's demand for corn."