Pork producer Leon Sheets and cattleman Ed Greiman (pronounced GRY-MUN) were part of an Iowa agricultural delegation that recently visited South Korea on a trade mission. Both came away extremely impressed with the recent gains U.S. pork and beef have made in Korea, and convinced that opportunities in this key market will be even greater when the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is ratified.

Sheets, who owns a diversified farming operation near Ionia, Iowa, and currently serves as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says a recent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak has taken a severe toll on Korea’s swine industry, creating an even greater need for imported pork.

Greiman, of Garner, Iowa, is president-elect of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. He spent a good portion of his time in Korea speaking with meat buyers and conducting several interviews with Korean media. When addressing both audiences, he placed a heavy emphasis on the safety of U.S. beef. Greiman said that while U.S. beef has gained much greater acceptance from Korean consumers in recent years, safety remains a lingering concern.

Through the first four months of 2011, Korea has been the third-largest value market for U.S. pork – increasing by 245 percent over last year to nearly $240 million. It has been the second largest value market for U.S. beef at $284 million – an increase of more than 150 percent over the first four months of 2010.