Beef With Korea

June 18, 2008

June 18, 2008

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary.

I found it hard to believe as I watched on television the thousands of South Koreans protesting thcir government's decision to accept U.S. beef. Come on -- are they really afraid that they will get mad-cow diseasc from eating our beef? That idea is ridiculous. They are obviously misinformed. Their scientists should tell them there is no risk. Their radio, television, and papers should give their citizens the facts.

One of the reasons for their hysteria is that on April 29, a TV news program reported that mad-cow disease may be still present in the U.S. and that American consumers aren't eating our own beef.

On May 3, a Korean newspaper featured a picture of a little girl holding a candle and a sign saying she didn't want to die from American beef.

The Korean beef farmers, of course, have joined the protest They don't want our beef competing with theirs. The whole issue has gotten out of hand. No one is going to get mad-cow disease. We had three diseased cows in our whole country 5 years ago. None since then. No one got sick.

The World Health Organization has set international standards. U.S. beef is judged to be safe. Other countries around the world can't get enough of our beef. Exports are running 40 percent ahead or last year.

The Korean reaction is irrational. Their protesters are demanding the resignation of their President. The opposition party to President Lee is taking full political advantage of the situation. The U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement, which is yet to be approved by both countries, is in doubt. Can this dispute be successfully resolved? Let's hope so. South Korea used to be our 3rd biggest beer export market -- 800 million dollars.

For now, I'll just have a big steak myself.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.