U.S. pork producers are partnering with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to provide pork to victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck parts of northeastern Japan on March 11.

Estimates suggest that more than half-a-million Japanese are without food and shelter. Food shortages are expected to last into summer.

The National Pork Board has allocated $100,000 from the Pork Checkoff to provide pork products and to help distribute it to those in need in Japan, says Conley Nelson, an Iowa pork producer and member of the National Pork Board. USMEF, which represents the U.S. meat industry in Japan with offices in Tokyo, will work with U.S. pork packers and distributors in Japan to ensure that the food reaches those in need.

The goal is to provide food that requires little or no preparation, such as pre-made bento (lunch) boxes, to people who have been displaced.

“Our hearts go out to the Japanese people who have suffered from this terrible natural disaster,” says Nelson. “The United States has named its relief efforts in Japan Operation Tomodachi or Operation Friendship. In the spirit of friendship, U.S. pork producers are pleased that we can become a small part of the effort to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the earthquake.”

Japan has become the top export market for U.S. pork in recent years. In 2010, Japan purchased $1.6 billion of U.S. pork. Nelson says it is natural the United States would continue to provide these great customers with U.S. pork in their time of need.

“As an American pork producer, I am proud that U.S. pork producers and importers through the National Pork Board are the first to step forward and provide seed money for this critical initiative,” says Danita Rodibaugh, chair-elect of USMEF and a pork producer from Rensselaer, IN. “We are hopeful that others will join us and offer their support for the people of Japan who have been great friends of U.S. agriculture.”

Those interested in supporting this relief effort through pork product donations or monetary donations should contact Jim Herlihy at USMEF, jherlihy@usmef.org or (303) 623-6328.