Beef Producers Cheer S. Korea's Free Trade Pact

April 27, 2008
| By Pete Daly |
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MARNE — The president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said the free trade agreement the South Korean government has reached with the Bush administration will open up a $1 billion market for the cattlemen.

Gary C. Voogt, who raises registered Angus cattle near here and was elected president of the NCBA for 2009, said, "Koreans love our meat. They're waiting for our meat." Voogt farms about 300 acres and has been an active member of the Michigan Cattlemen's Association and the NCBA for many years.

South Korea was the third largest importer of U.S. beef until Dec. 23, 2003, when one cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered in the U.S. According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the value of beef sold to South Korea in 2003 totaled $815 million. Then the South Korean government banned U.S. beef, as did Japan, which had been the leading foreign buyer of U.S. beef.

In January 2006, South Korea partially reopened its market to a limited amount of deboned U.S. beef from cattle less than 30 months of age, but that trade was interrupted several times and was effectively closed again last October.

"I hope South Korea's leadership on this issue will convince leaders in Japan, Taiwan, China and other markets still maintaining unscientific, unreasonable restrictions on U.S. beef and beef products to take a hard look at this issue," said U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab.

Congress must still ratify the Korea/U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) before it takes effect. Critics of trade with South Korea include U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

"South Korea is blocking American products from entering its economy by doing everything from instituting excessively rigorous testing on American appliances to placing higher insurance premiums on American cars, many of which are made here in Michigan," said Stabenow.

She noted that last year, U.S. automakers sold fewer than 10,000 vehicles in Korea, out of 1.2 million vehicles sold there. "Meanwhile, Korean automakers sold nearly 773,000 vehicles in the United States," she said.

According to the USDA, the retail value of the U.S. beef industry in 2007 totaled $74 billion. Total U.S. beef exports last year were worth $2.175 billion, or about 4.4 percent of production. In 2003, beef exports were 9.6 percent of production, with a value of $3.18 billion.

Initiated in 1898, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is the major marketing organization and trade association for America's one million cattle farmers and ranchers. With offices in Denver, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the associtaion has more than 28,000 individual members and is affiliated with 64 beef industry organizations throughout the country.

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