Japanese buyers visit Charlotte soybean farm

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WILX) - President Donald Trump's trade war with China has hurt Michigan's soybean farmers. The tariffs have cost them one of their biggest customers. But one local farm got a visit from some potential new buyers Monday.

Buyers from a Japanese trade group were locked in as farmer Gary Parr showed them how he grows his soybeans. His aren’t garden-variety beans; they're rare and extremely popular in Japan.

"It's difficult to come by. There are many of the companies who have Natto seed hold onto it and don't really share it, " said Parr.

Natto are specialty soybeans that have been fermented. They're used to make a traditional Japanese food. Representative Angela Witwer says since the rough weather hit, she's been supporting farmers in Eaton County. She helped Parr plant the Natto beans.

"We planted, looked at the fields and now we're at the point where we're considering harvest and how to sell it,” said Witwer.

For years China has been the number one importer of U.S. soybeans. But Parr says business is hurting because of the ongoing trade war.

"Bean prices have probably dropped probably at least a dollar a bushel," said Parr.

Now, Parr says commercial farms like his are looking for new markets. That's where Japan comes in.

"The beans we sold went to China so it was kind of like all our eggs in one basket type of thing. So anytime we can develop new markets and spread out, the more markets the better," said Parr.

Parr says buyers from Japan look for a particular type of farm to purchase their food from which is another reason his farm is being considered. He's a fourth-generation farmer, passing the torch to his son next.

"It's important to them to create a connection to see where their food is coming from and the fact that it comes from a family farm is important," said Parr.

Like a farmer, Parr says he's hopeful. Hopeful that he'll have a late frost and also that he'll see enough rain in September.

Soybean growers and buyers will be meeting Tuesday in Chicago for a trade show. The Japanese delegation could sign contracts to buy Michigan soybeans if they like what they see.

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