A Smithfield ham at a grocery store in Richardson, Texas. Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. agreed Wednesday, May 29, 2013, to buy Smithfield Foods Inc. for approximately $4.72 billion in a deal that will take the world's biggest pork producer private.
Shuanghui International, a well-heeled Chinese firm, has offered to buy Smithfield Foods Inc. for $7.1 billion. Currently, Smithfield controls 26 percent of U.S. pork processing and 15 percent of hog production.
Allowing China to own more than one-fourth of U.S. processing is concerning, considering China’s poor food safety record. In 2008, milk and baby formula processed in China were tainted with melamine, which led to infant deaths and thousands hospitalized.
Our question: Why would the United States go down the road of allowing a sale that would 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 this country’s GDP?
Here are some facts of concern:
• In 1980, there were 660,000 hog farms. Today there are 67,000.
• Only 2 percent of Food and Drug Administration-regulated food imports were inspected in 2010.
• The Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) has reduced its evaluations of foreign meat suppliers by 60 percent since 2008.
• 17 percent of the U.S. 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 oppose the sale of Smithfield Foods.
Doug Peterson, president, Minnesota Farmers Union
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.