After the deal was agreed, several farm-state legislators brought up U.S. beef’s inadequate access to Korean markets. South Korean authorities have been shy to allow U.S. beef imports following the “mad cow” scare a few years ago.

“Today's announcement is a positive development and it is my hope it signals President Obama's intention to submit the United States-South Korea Free Trade Agreement to Congress early next year,” said Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“While the lack of progress on beef is of concern, the free trade agreement is a critical part in growing U.S. agriculture exports. In the weeks ahead, Korea needs to provide assurances to the United States how it intends to fully implement the 2008 Protocol consistent with their international obligations.”

To get the Korean deal done, U.S. pork interests agreed to push back the date a zero tariff rate takes effect to 2016.

“With the date for a zero tariff on pork moved back, we likely will lose some market share” due to trade deals between Korea and other nations, admitted Sam Carney, president of the National Pork Producers Council. “But as the lowest-cost producer of pork in the world, we’ll hold our own. We still will go to zero six months prior to the EU.”

While disappointed with “changes to the agreement in regard to U.S. pork access to the Korean market, our pork producers will retain better access than our competitors because of the FTA” said Bob Stallman, president of the Farm Bureau. “It is critical that the U.S. and Korean governments continue consultations to improve access for U.S. beef into the market. Regardless, it cannot be overlooked that this agreement presents a great opportunity for U.S. agriculture and warrants the support of all members of Congress.

“The Korean FTA is important for American agriculture and the U.S. economy. At full implementation of the deal, we estimate an increase of $1.8 billion in U.S. agricultural trade per year.”

Congress is expected to take up the U.S./Korea trade deal early in 2011.

dbennett@farmpress.com