Net U.S. pork exports rose 141 percent during the first four months of this year. At least part of that boost came from problems in Europe with foot-and-mouth disease, says Jim Mintert, Kansas State University agricultural economist.

Through April, pork imports into the United States fell 12 percent, while U.S. pork exports jumped 25 percent, compared to the same period in 2000. In turn, it provided a boost to U.S. live hog prices. Some analysts estimate the gain has been between $2 and $5 per head.

The outlook for the future is not quite as positive. Trade restrictions linked to FMD involving pork products exported from countries in the European Union have been relaxed. That means Denmark and the Netherlands will increase their pork exports to the United States as well as other countries with which the United States competes for market share.

As a result, Mintert looks for U.S. exports to soften and pork imports into the United States to pick up this summer and fall, compared to the January to April period.

If pork demand continues to hold at current levels, the added imports should not hurt hog prices much. If demand wanes, it will add some price pressure, but the impact based on imports should not be dramatic.