Before leaving Japan, Governor Kate Brown honored Mr. Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya at the Friends of Oregon reception in Tokyo for his contributions to wheat trade between Oregon and Japan. At this gathering, it was especially fitting to honor this friend who has lived in both Oregon and Japan throughout his career and who has strengthened and maintained ties between Oregon and Japan around wheat. Governor Brown and Oregon Department of Agriculture director, Alexis Taylor were in Japan November 11-15 to meet with key partners of Oregon and to make new connections as part of the Governor’s 2019 Trade Mission to Asia. “They say Charlie has crossed the Pacific Ocean about 100 times during his work with the U.S. Wheat Associates,” said ODA Director, Alexis Taylor. “It is an honor to recognize his dedication and success in helping to make Oregon wheat our state’s single largest agricultural export to Japan. We wish him well in retirement.” Charlie first came to Oregon more than 40 years ago as a customer of Oregon wheat. He worked in grain trading management for Marubeni as well as chairman of Columbia Grain Inc. and spent 13 years living in the Portland metro area. After his time with Marubeni, he joined U.S. Wheat Associates and spent 12 years representing them. Through his work, Charlie brought many delegations of Japanese customers to visit Oregon wheat fields and hosted groups of classes and tours to the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland. “Wataru Utsinomiya, whom we all know as Charlie, has been the key part of our efforts to build and maintain the relationships Oregon’s wheat growers have with our longest and best customers in Japan,” said Darren Padget, Oregon Wheat Farmer and Vice Chair of U.S. Wheat Associates. “All of our growers owe Charlie a huge thank you for his years of service. He has made a difference for us. We will miss him and wish him all the best in his retirement.” Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country since 1949, when the Oregon Wheat Growers League first organized a trade delegation to investigate opportunities for expanding U.S. wheat sales. Wheat is Oregon’s sixth leading agricultural commodity by value at nearly $300 million in 2018. Wheat is also Oregon’s leading agricultural export to Japan.