Pawlenty Seeks Pork Help

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has asked federal authorities to help the pork industry, mostly encouraging them to work out better international trade deals.

The Minnesota Republican stopped short of what nine of his colleagues, including those from Iowa and Wisconsin, asked: increasing spending on pork for federal community programs.

"Given the importance of pork production to Minnesota’s economy, I urge you to initiate long-term strategies to assist this important business sector," Pawlenty wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor.

Pawlenty urged Vilsack to use "already appropriated funds, if available, to support and promote pork producers." For the long-term, he added, federal authorities should focus on trade negotiations to open up more markets.

He told Vilsack that pork is a $4 billion industry to Minnesota, supporting more than 55,000 jobs. Pork producers say they lose more than $30 a hog because of high feed costs and a drop on demand caused by the recession and a fear from "swine flu."

China and other countries have banned American pork, citing fears from H1N1 flu, also known as "swine flu," even though scientists say people cannot catch the flu from eating pork.