U.S. chicken growers balk at European trade deal

Posted by Rob Hotakainen on November 5, 2013 

U.S. chicken growers expect to export 20 percent of their product to more than 100 countries this year, but none of it will go to Europoe. Here, chicks flock together at a chicken farm started by David Schumann and Tracy Schumann-Scapanski in Sauk Rapids, Minn.

RICHARD SENNOTT/MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE — MCT

U.S. chicken growers will send 20 percent of their product to more than 100 countries this year, but none of it is going to Europe.

And industry officials say that's unlikely to change, even if the U.S. strikes a new trade deal with the European Union.

After getting shut out of the European market since 1997, they say there's little reason to expect that Europeans will start consuming U.S. chicken any time soon.

It's sure to be a front-burner issue when U.S. and European negotiators meet in Brussels next week for their second round of trade talks.

And while U.S trade officials say they're determined to come up with a deal that benefits all of American agriculture, chicken growers aren't convinced.

"We have serious concerns --- even serious doubts --- that any new trade agreement with the European Union will result in real and meaningful access for U.S. poultry exports to the European market," said William Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Chicken Council, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee last week.

Roenigk said the "protectionist sentiment" in European countries is the result of suspicions that U.S. chicken is not safe because it has been cleaned in chlorinated water. But he said that U.S. government agencies have made it clear that the cleaning method employed in the U.S. is both "safe and efficacious."

For now, Roenigk told the panel, it's "difficult to see" how any new trade deal would help the poultry industry.

"We hope that we will, at some point, be able to strongly support this initiative," he said.

There is one glimmer of hope for chicken growers: the use of lactic acid on beef is now acceptable to the European Unoni, Roenigk said.

And he called that "a favorable step."

 

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