A federal agency is giving its initial approval to the purchase of Smithfield Foods by a Chinese company. Greg Lear, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says he understands concerns about the deal that would lead to a quarter of the U.S. pork industry being foreign-owned.

Still, Lear says the opportunity for significant trade inroads is huge. “Twenty-five percent of our product over the next four or five or six, seven, eight years ends up going to China?” Lear says. “That is a huge, huge game-changer for the marketing of our pork products.”

If approved, it would be the biggest-ever takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm. Lear, who farms in Spencer, says that sale, if it becomes final, will bring just the tip of the iceberg for potential U.S. pork sales to the globe’s most populous country.

Lear says, “Take that full 25% that Smithfield is harvesting every day and put it into the tiny spectrum as far as what (the Chinese) have for demand for pork products, that’s only 3% of their total demand a day for pork.” Those who oppose the Smithfield sale to the Chinese company are just “spinning their wheels” according to Lear, because nothing can be done to stop it. The reported sale price is $4.7-billion.

Smithfield is America’s largest pork producer, employing 3,500 Iowans at plants in Carroll, Denison, Mason City and Sioux Center.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)