Bone to pick with shipping employees

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Dear Editor:

Never mind that South Korea and other Asian countries are some of the toughest negotiators in world trade. Never mind that South Korea and other Asian countries love to export their products to benefit their economy but try to limit imports to protect their economy.

Never mind that South Korea and other Asian countries are known for using any technicality they can find to block imports into their countries. And never mind that South Korea is being very technical by rejecting bone-in beef imports; they only want boneless.

In spite of their stubborn efforts to block U.S. beef imports for three years, South Korea agreed to reopen their market to American beef after many months of tough negotiations. However restricted, an agreement was reached; U.S. trade negotiators managed a breakthrough.

U.S. beef shipments finally resumed, but were rejected again when the tiniest of bone chips were discovered in thousands of pounds of beef. Back to the table, more arguing, more negotiating, then more beef accepted, and more bone chips found. Trade talks continued.

Finally, U.S. beef exports of boneless beef to South Korea resume, but wait -- the first shipment of boneless beef arrived with one box of bone-in beef ribs included. Personally, had I been on the receiving end of that shipment I would have invited all my friends and relatives over for a first class barbecue.

But wait, the next shipment also has bone-in beef accidentally included. Then, for the third time in less than a month, four boxes containing 287 pounds of bone-in beef meant for U.S. consumption were sent to South Korea. What is going on here, is someone intentionally trying to sabotage our beef export market?

All the months of negotiations by U.S. trade representatives seem threatened. Here they are working hard to convince South Korea to expand their imports of U.S. beef, and the people responsible for sending current agreed-upon shipments cannot get the shipments right.

I know nothing about the problems the people responsible for shipping these exports face in their tasks -- perhaps theirs is a very difficult job. So many mistakes occurring in such a short period of time, however, are undercutting all the work of our trade negotiators to open this market.

To say the least, the whole affair is very disheartening to America's livestock producers. Such mistakes not only damage their reputation, but livestock producers depend upon export markets for much of their livelihood. As with nearly everything regarding agriculture, however, it's not just the farmers who are hurt by such problems.

American agriculture exports help reduce the balance of payments for the entire United States. Quality control problems, like repeatedly sending the wrong beef to our foreign customers, damage both our credibility as a reliable trade partner and our economy.


Denny Banister

Missouri Farm Bureau assistant director of public affairs.