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Stabenow: Senate Ag will evaluate Smithfield sale proposal

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that she has many concerns about the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods, the U.S.-based pork producer, to a Chinese firm, and said her committee will become involved in the government's evaluation of whether the sale should move forward.

In an interview with Jerry Hagstrom on C-SPAN, which will be posted online later today and broadcast on Sunday, Stabenow said that the Agriculture Committee will insist on becoming involved in the process that the Treasury Department will undertake to evaluate the proposed sale.

Stabenow said the committee has already begun to raise questions with Treasury, and that while she is not certain the committee will hold hearings, it could do so if necessary.

The sale could have implications for U.S. consumers, for food safety, and for other export markets such as Japan, the biggest buyer of U.S. pork, Stabenow said.

Shuanghui International, the Chinese company which has proposed buying Smithfield, has had food safety problems in the past, she noted, adding that she has questions about whether that company would at some point want to export food to the United States.

Stabenow also said she would encourage other U.S. companies to make bids on Smithfield, but noted she realizes there could be anti-trust concerns about a merger of Smithfield with another big U.S. pork producer.

The Treasury Department-led committee is supposed to examine the sale for possible national security concerns, and Stabenow said that food security must be considered a vital part of national security.