China is agreeing to reopen its massive markets to U.S. pork products, a major boon for Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producer. U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is in China and made the announcement this morning. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says the course reversal will mean a huge revenue boost for Iowa hog farmers.
“That is great news,” Harkin says. “It’s something that I’ve been pushing for a long time. I sent a letter earlier this year to the administration telling them to increase their pressure on China.” U.S. pork imports were cut off by China several months ago after the initial scare from H-1-N-1 flu, what some people called “swine flu,” though the influenza has no direct link to pork. Harkin says the World Trade Organization should’ve blasted China over its shaky claims.
“It really was a violation of WTO,” Harkin says. “There’s absolutely no scientific justification for what they did. So this is a big deal and it’s going to be very big for Iowa.” The U.S.D.A. says in 2008, China was the U.S. pork industry’s fastest-growing market, accounting for between 560-million and 700-million dollars in U.S. exports. Iowa pork producers supplied about one-third of those products to China, so the Chinese market reopening could mean more than $230-million in renewed business for Iowa producers. Harkin notes, as many as 16 nations had banned American pork at the start of the flu outbreak.
“There are some but I don’t know how many are left,” Harkin says. “Some of these are very small. China, of course, was the big problem and the big market. The rest of these don’t add up to as much as that.” In a news release, Secretary Vilsack says, “China’s intent to remove its H1N1-related ban on U.S. pork marks an important step forward in cooperation between the countries on agriculture issues.”