Halt to U.S.-Korean Beef Talks Asked for by Farm Groups

South Korean cattle groups say addressing bird flu more important.

Negotiations to open the South Korean market to U.S. beef re-opened Friday for the first time since last October. According to officials, South Korea is willing to import U.S. bone-in beef, but wish to keep the ban on beef from cattle older than 30 months of age. However; now farm groups in Korea are questioning the talks that could re-write import rules for U.S. beef.

Leaders from Korean beef, dairy and swine groups expressed their concerns to Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun. Nam Ho-kyung, a leader of the beef association says the government should be working to control bird flu rather than working on a beef settlement with the U.S. He also expressed concern that these talks were being held on the eve of a visit to Washington by new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

"The negotiations that kicked off on Friday may be construed as an effort by the government to offer a summit gift to Washington," Nam says.

Meanwhile a fourth case of bird flu has been confirmed in South Korea requiring the destruction of more than 470,000 chickens. The total number of birds that have been destroyed as a result of outbreaks in South Korea this year is more than 1.3 million.

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