China has agreed to lift its ban on pork imports from the United States, according to a statement released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Minnesota has the nation's second largest pork industry, producing about 15 million hogs each year. The industry employs about 22,000 workers throughout the state.
"This is very welcome news," said David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association. "It's a fantastic first step."
The announcement was made during trade talks with U.S. officials, but Chinese officials did not say when the ban will be lifted. China enacted the ban earlier this year, citing concerns about the H1N1 influenza virus.
Preisler said that 27 countries initially banned U.S. pork exports after the H1N1 outbreak, but only China's ban remains. He estimates that the outbreak has cost pork producers $2 billion in revenue since May.