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Letter: Smithfield sale to Chinese group has risks

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Shuanghui International, a well-healed Chinese group, has offered to buy Smithfield Foods, Inc. for $7.1 billion. Currently, Smithfield controls 26 percent of the United States pork processing, and 15 percent of domestic hog production.

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This proposed purchase has consequences for livestock farmers. Allowing China to own more than one-fourth of the United States pork processing is concerning considering China's poor food safety record.

In 2008, the milk and baby formula processed in China was tainted with melamine, which lead to infant deaths and thousands hospitalized. Our question --EMDASH-- why would the United States go down the road of allowing a sale which will impact the nearly 35,000 direct jobs, and 515,000 indirect jobs generated by the pork industry, plus the $34.5 billion that goes to the country's GDP, to be sold to a foreign company with compromised food standards and safety?

We believe this sale leads to more concentration and less competition leading to higher pork prices for the consumer, and lower prices paid to pork farmers.

Here are some facts of concern:

• In 1980, there were 660,000 hog farms. Today there are only 67,000. In 2011 alone, approximately 2,300 hog producers went out of business;

• only 2 percent of Food and Drug Administration regulated food imports were inspected in 2010;

• Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) has reduced its evaluations of foreign meat suppliers by 60 percent since 2008; and

• 17 percent of the United States food supply is imported.

Minnesota Farmers Union is concerned about how American farmers and consumers would be treated by a foreign owner considering the history of tainted food, hog disease, trade imbalance, and concentration -- risks too high to take. If you agree, call your members of Congress and ask them to do what they can for a no-sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International.

Doug Peterson

President, Minnesota Farmers Union

Madison, Minn.

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